Last week, a group of CU Boulder students were introduced to the quickly growing Boulder-based kombucha company, Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha, on a field trip with the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at Leeds School of Business.
The startup story
Early on Friday, we gathered around a conference table in their brand new office space for a conversation with their Founder and CEO, Jamba Dunn. One of the first things he told us was their mission: "to get sustainably sourced plant medicine to as many people as possible.” Jamba was a 9 to 5 content developer for Rosetta Stone when a side hobby, making homemade kombucha, took over. Jamba has the type of personality that obsesses over perfection and is defined by perseverance and commitment. When asked about his ideas on entrepreneurship he said, “you have to put your physicality into what you do and believe it 100%.”
We learned how Rowdy Mermaid got started, how they're growing and most importantly, how they're differentiating themselves from their competitors. After a recent funding raise, they decided to shift all production into cans - one example of their values-driven decision-making. Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha is an industry leader, prioritizing sustainability by shifting to 100% recyclable cans, instead of the less sustainable glass options used by most of the market.
After our conversation with Jamba, we sat down with Phil (a CU alum!), their leading microbiologist who leads R&D and quality assurance. He shared some of the science behind kombucha and explained how important the chemistry is to creating flavors. Rowdy Mermaid makes kombucha that tastes less acidic and has less sugar than its competitors. It was impressive to see their QA process and see how much alcohol and sugar their competitors have in their products.
I think their kombucha is really good! We got the chance to try some new flavors and provide feedback as a focus group before enjoying a lunch where we got to talk to team members.
The company is in the process of moving into a new facility and it was fun to see their current space and the one they're building out. Their canning line and state-of-the-art lab are really cool.
I walked away thinking about something that Jamba told us about entrepreneurship:
“I don’t think there is a right time or a wrong time to start a company, you just need to build it.”
If you're interested in how startups survive and thrive in the real world, jump in on the next Field Trip!