One year ago, two Wake Forest University students decided to turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality. Olivia Wolff (’16) and Lauren Miller (’17), both Kombucha enthusiasts, recognized a need in the market for a more mild, yet flavorful Kombucha drink. Infused with digestive enzymes, beneficial yeasts, acids, and probiotics, Kombucha has been widely recognized for its health benefits since the early 1900s.
In the beginning stages of their startup, Wolff and Miller made every bottle to order at Wolff’s apartment in Deacon Station. Their first order was capped at forty bottles, and to their surprise, it sold out in one hour. From that moment forward, the two entrepreneurs knew that their product had potential to flourish. Just four months after their launch, Wolff and Miller were selling 160 bottles a week, with demand continuing to increase at a rapid pace.
Although balancing schoolwork and a new business has been difficult at times, the two women have overcome this challenge by identifying their own personal strengths and weaknesses. Wolff highlights that their partnership has greatly benefited from dividing and conquering, as her main focus is on managing the sales and Miller’s is on the accounting end of the company.
With their marketing expertise, and immense exposure through Facebook and Instagram, the sky was the limit for UpDog Kombucha. But as the company grew, Wolff and Miller recognized that it was crucial to expand to a more spacious brewery with larger fermentation vessels in Winston Salem. Although they first sold the Kombucha solely by the bottle, the vast demand led the two entrepreneurs to partner with various yoga studios and restaurants and implement an “on tap” version of the drink. Today, the Kombucha startup can be found at businesses all over North Carolina.
“We ferment black and green tea for 2 weeks and flavor with organic cold press juices and spices, in addition to other teas.”
Wolff and Miller emphasize the immeasurable resources that Wake Forest University has given them. The support from CICE, Startup Lab, and various professors and students has been second to none. Wolff states, “Wake Forest is such a close-knit community and has provided us with so much valuable information and given us countless opportunities to network with experienced entrepreneurs.”
Yet, UpDog Kombucha has benefited the most by the collaborative partnership between Wolff and Miller. Their respect and appreciation for each other is evident, and likely one of the reasons why their business has prospered so quickly. Wolff describes Miller as “detail oriented,” “motivated beyond belief,” and “always willing to go the extra mile.” Just as complimentary, Miller describes Wolff as a “skilled networker,” “incredibly driven,” and “ambitious and goal-oriented.”
The future of UpDog Kombucha is limitless, as in just one year the startup has expanded to 39 locations in the state. The young entrepreneurs are determined to continue building their brand, distributing regionally, and solidifying accounts with various health-focused businesses in the years to come.
When asked if they had any advice for students wanting to start their own business, without hesitation Miller expressed the importance of resilience: “Pursue your ideas. You don’t have anything to lose, only something to gain.”