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Blue Ridge Bucha

Submitted by: Kate Zuckerman
Business Website: http://blueridgebucha.com/
State: Virginia
City: Waynesboro

Business Description

A small business team making a big impact for the environment with handcrafted organic kombucha.

What makes your business one of the best small businesses in your community?

In 2010, husband-and-wife team Kate and Ethan Zuckerman founded Blue Ridge Bucha with a mission: make delicious Certified Organic kombucha and share it sustainably. After 8 years, our refillable bottles and innovative draft systems have saved over 750,000 bottles from landfills. Alongside our focus on sustainability, our passionate and dedicated team makes our company one of the best in the community. We use positive employment practices, actively coaching and mentoring our team and providing our 7 full-time employees with a full range of benefits (medical, dental, and Simple IRAs) and our 6 part-time employees with competitive living wages. In line with our company’s ethos, we financially support several local nonprofits that encourage personal and environmental health. As the company continues to average a 70% annual growth rate, we remain committed to making a big economic and social impact in our hometown. We strive to live up to our motto: Big Flavor, Small Footprint.

The following responses will be considered in judging for a SCORE Award.

How has working with a SCORE mentor helped your business?

Our mentor Steve Cooper has been a champion of our small business for the past 6 years. His insights have had a huge impact on how we manage our monthly cash flow. The past 3 years have presented significant cash flow challenges, from our normal winter lull in sales to a complete rebrand prompted by a trademark infringement lawsuit. With Steve’s guidance we not only survived the rebrand and retained our 7 full time employees year round, we also had enough capital leftover to launch a new taproom and expand our employee benefit package to include HSA options and Simple IRAs. Steve has provided creative insights for marketing, income diversification, and inventory management, making us a more efficient company and a more competitive employer.

Please describe the specific ways that your business has been successful and how it will grow in the next year.

Two metrics illustrate our past success, % revenue growth and bottles saved. Between 2012-16, we averaged a 70% annual growth in revenue and a 55% increase in bottles saved (750,000 bottles in total). In January of 2017, we decreased our wholesale pricing by 12% due to increased efficiencies and improved equipment (savings that we passed along to customers). In 2018, we will open our first taproom and brewery in Waynesboro, VA. Beyond revitalizing an economically depressed corridor in the city, our taproom will become an important revenue stream and vital educational tool. Through workshops, tours, and other programs, we will use the space to show our customers our sustainability practices and encourage them to adopt and invent new ones.
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