Rachael Walker, owner of Life’s a Buch Kombucha shares her COVID-19 pivot story along with some tips for small business owners to survive and thrive during this crisis.
Nick Armstrong 0:00
I’m Nick Armstrong from Fort Collins Startup Week and I have been really fascinated by so many amazing local business owners and we’re here with one today talking about her response and her pivot to the COVID-19 situation.
It’s impacting all of us in various ways and some more than most, and getting some really good advice from local business owners, I think is one of the best things that we can do for each other right now to help each other survive through this crisis.
I’m here today with Rachael Walker from Life’s a Buch kombucha. Rachael, why don’t you tell us about your business?
Rachael Walker 0:36
Life’s a Buch is a small craft kombucha company located here in the heart of Fort Collins. We are small craft so that means we ferment in two-gallon glass jars that really helps keep the flavor profile and the authenticity of the kombucha. We have six very very unique flavors ranging from pineapple mint to blueberry chai and in the summertime, we have a fireballer, which is cayenne, cloves, and cinnamon. It’s really good. And we have been in business for over two years now and are offered in almost 30 locations all around the Front Range region.
Nick Armstrong 1:12
What were your first reactions when the COVID situation began?
Rachael Walker 1:16
Honestly, I was freaking out a little bit, kind of just – you know, it’s a roller coaster of emotions. And especially when this first came out, no one really had any idea what was going to happen. There was a few days there where I wasn’t quite sure if we were going to be counted as an essential business. And so that was very stressful for me. As soon as I figured out we were, we were considered an essential business, you know, kind of 360’d my attitude a little bit knowing that we could stay open for the month. Definitely a few worries there at the beginning, but everything is going amazing, now.
Nick Armstrong 1:54
What was the reaction from your customers?
Rachael Walker 1:56
Our customers, honestly the second – no, I wouldn’t say the second this happened, but – pretty [soon], you know, as this moved on, customers wanted kombucha. Kombucha is full of probiotics. It’s full of antioxidants. It’s full of enzymes. And it’s really, really good for your gut, which are all things you need when fighting off, you know, any sort of sickness. And so customers reached out and they wanted kombucha – they voiced that they were in need.
Nick Armstrong 2:26
How did COVID start impacting your business? What were some of the things that you noticed?
Rachael Walker 2:30
The first and foremost thing that happened was we lost over 80% of our stores when the stay at home or went into place. That being restaurants, bars, breweries, gyms, salons, everything closing. So, we only have about four stores that are still currently open – grocery stores – that we are available in, so I mean, we lost 80% of our business.
Nick Armstrong 2:53
How did you pivot? What did you do next?
Rachael Walker 2:55
Kind of just had to put my head on straight and kind of 100% re-do our business model and how we operate things. And we started offering home delivery, contact-free home delivery. No delivery charge which has also been really good. I feel just everyone is trying not to go to the store right now trying to do whatever they can to get their hands on healthy local food. So for the past five weeks now, we’ve been doing home delivery and our sales have doubled in the last month with doing that home delivery.
Nick Armstrong 3:28
Doubled from prior to COVID?
Rachael Walker 3:30
Yeah. We are doing numbers that we usually do in July and August right now. And you know, summertime is really is the busy season for any sort of manufactured beverage, especially kombucha. So it’s pretty amazing that our sales have doubled considering you know, the times that we’re all in.
Nick Armstrong 3:50
Did you seek out any sort of help or what you know, did you if you did, where did you seek it out from?
Rachael Walker 3:55
Aside from reaching out to you guys at the Larmer SBDC which has been a huge help – they are offering free consultation sessions right now, so that was really helpful. What I also did was kind of look at my competition around town to see what they were doing. I always like to recommend you look at your competition, see what they’re doing see things that you like that they’re doing, that you don’t like that they’re doing, look for areas of opportunity for yourself. And it just kind of seemed obvious, literally every single business around town was offering home delivery. So it was kind of an easy choice to offer that.
Nick Armstrong 4:29
You said that your sales have doubled from prior to COVID. What other things have you seen so far happen for your business?
Rachael Walker 4:35
More customers – a bigger following, honestly. I got a couple of magnets for the side of my car that says we’re now offering home delivery. I have so many friends that are sharing my business on social media and reaching out to their friends to reach out to me for kombucha. So if anything, we just gained more exposure which has been really beneficial for us. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re heading into the busy season. So this is kind of the time we want more exposure now more than ever, so it’s been nothing but good to us.
Nick Armstrong 5:06
Not only did you shift from primarily B2B because you were running taps at restaurants and other locations, you shifted to primarily B2C. And you’re you started up a delivery business. So you added logistics, what sort of support mechanisms did you have in place before COVID? Did you have like an email list or anything else like that?
Rachael Walker 5:25
I did not have an email list before COVID. No. And honestly, most of my accounts are wholesale. So aside from my direct relationships, I have with my account managers, aside from social media, I don’t really have anything else. And so with all this happening, it’s also just bettered my relationships with my customers and my exposure to my customers
Nick Armstrong 5:52
Do you have any advice for fellow business owners who are looking at pivoting to something new during this time?
Rachael Walker 5:57
First and foremost, reach out to the Larimer SBDC. Reach out to other fellow business owners. You know, like I mentioned earlier with your competition, but it doesn’t have to be your competition who you reach out to. Reach out to other business owners and see what they’re doing, see what works, see what doesn’t work. Also, some advice I would have to give is, do not say no to the customer, find a way to make it happen. Whether you have to tell them, it’ll be three to five days until they can get the product, figure out how to make it happen. And then if you need help, reach out to your fellow business owners around town to see what they can do. You guys can all rally together to make a game plan to get your product on their front porch.
Nick Armstrong 6:36
So where can we find out more about you and your business and how can we get ourselves set up for home delivery of kombucha?
Rachael Walker 6:41
Yes, good question. So our home delivery we have an online store right now on our website, www.LifesABuch.com. You can also visit us on social media. We’re on Instagram and Facebook.