Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jean-Pierre Parent, CEO of SOMA Kombucha, located in Portland, OR, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We started SOMA Kombucha in 2008 in order to share my family's recipe for kombucha and jun. We sell mostly in the Pacific NW but are branching out to the Rocky Mountains, California, and the SW. We have some taprooms in the Portland area as well.
Tell us about yourself
Jean-Pierre Parent, a yoga teacher in Portland, Oregon, noticed that, even though people often go to yoga studios for the community, many students would shyly slink away after class. In response, he began bringing his home-brew kombucha to enjoy after class. It was an instant hit, with students, then later studio owners, requesting to purchase his kombucha. SOMA was born.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Maintaining product quality while growing to serve a larger audience. We've survived many hurdles without the investors and business degrees of other companies because of our devoted customers and our tenacity and sense of purpose.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
My experience in business is a perfect reflection of my inner life - my blind spots and lack of mastery in certain areas are brought front and center for me to deal with or die - so business is an amazing opportunity for personal growth.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Find partners and clearly delineate roles - a triangle is the start of a strong foundation - in CPG, you need 1) production, 2) sales and marketing, and 3) admin/CEO stuff.
- START with your costs, breakeven point, and where you need to get to in sales and when. You can adjust pricing, costs, etc., much more easily on paper than on a product that's already on a shelf. This will also give you clear goals and timelines instead of just spinning your wheels and focusing on things that don't get you where you need to go. For example, you may find that your price needs to be at a certain point that excludes selling at wholesale so that you can focus on D2C, and that's a totally different business model.
- Be laser-focused on what you're doing. I took on way too many things, and it cost me a good deal of momentum.
- (Bonus) Protect your reputation, both professionally and that of your product, above anything else. Don't try to please everyone and spread yourself too thin. Decide what you're going to be great at and don't do anything else or run the risk of tarnishing your rep. Scrap product that isn't awesome, though it hurts to do so.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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