Startup brews up success

It’s 11 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and Stewart Campbell is concentrating on chopping and juicing fresh ginger. Kellan Adams is lining up bottles on a worktable they use, which is in the kitchen of Rounds Bakery on East Moana Lane in Reno.

It’s a carefully orchestrated operation and it’s different every day.

“Some days we’re brewing, some days it’s mostly bottling and labeling and some days we do bookkeeping and go to events. But that’s what running your own business takes,” Adams said as she trims up labels with a paper cutter and wraps them around freshly filled Kombucha bottles ready for delivery.

It’s just the two of them doing it all.

The Kombucha beverage they are purveying is basically fermented tea. People have been making it for 2,000 years. It’s enjoying a resurgence of popularity, especially among the health conscious. And Bella Bucha Kombucha, the Reno business started by Adams, is riding the wave.

“I started drinking this a few years ago and couldn’t believe how it helped my digestion and made me feel so energetic. So I started making it at home and experimenting with getting it to taste better,” Adams said.

The fermentation process just automatically gives a lot of Kombucha an acidic taste like vinegar. Adams was able to get the right blend of teas and flavors to take some of that sharp taste out and still keep the healthful properties.

“So many people would taste it and ask if they could buy it that I started making enough to sell,” Adams said.

That’s where it started. But she’s come a long way.

She starts with organic teas she gets locally from Davidson’s Teas and ferments them with sugar and yeast. Once the thick layer of fermentation called a scoby (which stands for a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) forms, the brew is strained and flavored with everything from rose petals and freshly juiced ginger to hibiscus, jasmine, almond, orange and lemon. Each variety is specific to her carefully created recipes. After the brewing, just before the bottling, she adds her favorite ingredient of all: local fresh honey.

“I don’t add a lot, just enough to give it that smooth soft taste so it doesn’t affect the probiotics in it, but it makes it taste so good,” she said with a smile.

She started the company two years ago and is currently bottling 600 gallons a month. It is already in local cafes and restaurants and she has her eye on expanding.

And that can become a reality now because she’s been awarded a low-interest loan from Reno Rebuild, a group of local entrepreneurs who want to help other start-ups with a financial leg up.

“I’ve gotten a loan for $20,000 and I’m so excited to expand,” Adams says. I need to find a co-packer so I can really get my product out there. And I know that by summer I will be able to get this into Whole Foods, which is fantastic.

“There’s a big appetite for this in the organic stores and the co-op and in Midtown restaurants and it’s because this tastes so good. I’ve tried to take it slow but I’m ready to expand and see where this can go.”

She hopes to move to a space of her own, rather than sharing the kitchen at Rounds Bakery.

Better yet would be going to the next level with a co-packer so she could step away from the production and do more with the marketing. And the company hopes to use some of the loan money to customize a refrigerated van to take to events.

Adams said the most challenging part of growing a new business so far has been finding balance.

“I know how important being healthy is. Some days we spend 16…even 17 hours at a time here working. Then there’s still bookkeeping and refining the labels and so much more. And I’m trying to make sure that while I’m helping other people feel good, I take the time for myself too.”

Self-employment comes naturally to her.

Adams said her parents were entrepreneurs running a restaurant in Tahoe and she somehow knew that she’d eventually have her own business too.

She’s sensible, she’s driven and it sure looks like she is set to brew up a big batch of success.

Those looking to slake their thirst can find Bella Bucha Kombucha at the Great Basin Co-op, Great Full Gardens, Two Chicks, the Hub and the Coffeebar.

If all goes well, you’ll be seeing it in Whole Foods Market this summer.


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