Anatomy of a Startup
In 2011, Daina Trout, N07, MG07, was a budding entrepreneur with $600 and a closet full of fermented tea. Today, she’s at the helm of Health-Ade Kombucha, the country’s fastest-growing kombucha company. We caught up with Trout to learn how she grew a side hustle into a behemoth ’booch brand—and the important milestones she reached along the way.
Summer 2011> Trout is feeling unfulfilled in her day job at a pharmaceutical company. “I had this itch,” she said. “I had so much energy to build something—but I didn’t know what that something was going to be.”
Fall 2011> Trout, her husband, Justin, and best friend, Vanessa Dew, launch an “entrepreneurs club,” meeting regularly to discuss business ideas.
Fall 2011> After Justin realizes he’s losing his hair, the friends have an idea: to start a side hustle making SCOBY—the microbial culture used in kombucha—to homeopathically combat baldness. With $600 of their own savings, they begin brewing in Trout’s apartment.
Winter 2012> Kombucha is a byproduct of cultivating SCOBY, and the trio has too much of it. “We’d accumulated like a hundred cases of kombucha,” Trout said. “It was taking over my apartment.”
Winter 2012> The first bottle of kombucha is sold at the Brentwood, California, Farmers’ Market. Soon it’s selling out weekly—and the friends pivot their business to ’booch instead of a baldness cure.
Summer 2012> Trout is evicted for brewing seventy cases of kombucha per month in her closet. The business moves into a bakery, where the trio trades labor for kitchen space.
Winter 2012> Trout quits her day job. “We realized if we really wanted to give Health-Ade a shot, we needed to give it all our attention,” she said.
Summer 2013> Health-Ade Kombucha secures its first outside investment from a boutique private equity firm. The multimillion-dollar sum supports the company through the next eighteen months.
Fall 2013> The company hires its first full-time employee.
Spring 2014> The team moves into its first dedicated brewery: an 8,000-square-foot space in Van Nuys, California.
Summer 2014> Health-Ade Kombucha hits shelves in its first Whole Foods market, in Los Angeles.
Fall 2015> The company reaches $1 million in monthly sales.
Fall 2016> After opening a 43,000-square-foot brewery in Torrance, California, Health-Ade launches kegs of kombucha in corporate offices, including Netflix, Uber, and Twitter.
2017–2018> Pivotal new grocery store accounts—such as Target and Costco—help make the company the fastest-growing kombucha brand in America.
Fall 2019> Health-Ade Kombucha now has 220 employees and brews nearly four million cases of kombucha a year, which it sells in twenty-six thousand stores nationwide. “From our little LA apartment,” Trout said, “we somehow made it to the mainstream.”
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