Updated: Dec 1, 2021
Who are you and what is your background?
Mary Lou Deviley, partner/owner of Tapuat Kombucha Brewing Co. Grew up in Houston, Texas, went to the school University of Texas at Austin. Studied English, Publication Design, and played Soccer.
Your current job:
Creative Director & Brew Mistress at Tapuat, Mixologist at The Kitschinn, Graphic Designer, Operations Manager, Wife & Mother of 5 kids (10 and under).
In which city:
Sister Bay, Wisconsin
Where does your interest in Kombucha come from?
Knowing the importance of whole food, whole plant medicine, with the added benefit of fermentation. I love creating healthy drinks and making them accessible and enjoyable for others. Kombucha just makes sense to me, she and I get along, speak a common language. Started drinking GT’s Trilogy in 2001 – Started brewing my own Kombucha for my juice bar in 2008.
What prompted you to start your company?
Not wanting to work under someone else’s thumb. Living in a very small town, year-round jobs are limited. I enjoy all aspects of being a small business owner. It allows me the freedom to do what I love while raising a family.
What makes your product unique?
We use a wide array of herbs and teas in our Kombuchas. We brew in the traditional sense that every batch is fermented for a period of time with the culture. No powdered probiotics or forced carbonation to give the “appearance” of fermentation. Bottled in an American-Made glass bottle.
What do you want to convey through your brand image? Design: how was it designed? By who?
I created our brand image and do most of the design in-house. Tapuat is a name for the symbol we use as our logo. It is a symbol for Mother Earth, and of life’s labyrinth. The symbol came from an idea about the Kombucha culture itself being similar to a placenta. Each flavor has its own design which ranges from cute kewpies to sacred symbols and everything in between. I either illustrate them myself or work with (mostly female) tattoo artists on ideas I have for illustrations.
What are the main challenges in your company?
How to grow the company and stay true to our values without compromising standards or quality. And, though we are about to break ground on our own boochery, we’ve been operating at capacity inside a small condo space for 6 years. We hit daily challenges just based on space and logistics.
What tools are essential for your work(app, software)?
Quickbooks, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Dropbox, Google Drive, Excel
A word to define what type of worker you are:
What does your office space look like?
2 screen p.c. for regular business and accounting at a sit-down desk with all of the regular players surrounding. Lots of mechanical pencils and extra Sharpies. A stand-up large screen Mac for graphic design and anything creative. Large Calendar for brew and bottle schedules. Post-It lists next to the computer based on priority. Inspiring images, color wheels, Pantone print sheets with a Jimi Hendrix hologram poster and a Velvet Jesus to keep me in good company. I also have baby toys and a diaper bag here, as my 6-month-old comes with me to work every day.
Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?
I wish. I know the “right answer” to this question BUT, my life is pretty chaotic lately. My husband/business partner is always coaching me on how I should be more routine and organized. I will always be a work in progress. Routine has never been my thing, although I understand it might help overall. Brewing alone takes up a lot of my time, and then the down times between batches – waiting for temperatures etc. is when I get emails answered and office work is done. Graphics get done when I can really get into a groove when there is no bottling happening with loud machinery in the background.
What tips would you give to improve productivity?
Focus on finishing one project before starting the next. Finish it strong and check it off the list. This is my goal for 2019.
What is the best advice you have been given?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. & Make a list.
Can you give us a tour of your local Kombucha scene?
In Wisconsin, there are less than a handful of Kombucha companies brewing to any sort of scale. It is mostly Tapuat and Nessalla that are holding it down here. The National brands have found their way into almost every nook and cranny there is. Bars and restaurants are just starting to “get it”, offering Kombucha on tap and as a mixer in craft cocktails. It is fun to be part of really making a scene!
How do you control the growth of your company?
Staying true to our core values and beliefs. Saying yes only as we know we can handle new accounts. Knowing that we can only produce a certain amount in the space we have, with the staff we have. Consistently asking ourselves the question, “Do we want this?”. Plus, we have a great team of accountants and financial advisors that understand the numbers game better than we do.
What is your strategy for making your beer known? (tastings, festival, etc.) Why this strategy?
We demo every week. We take part in nearly every event we are asked to do in our area, often giving away product in order to open up the conversation about What is Kombucha, What is Tapuat? We also have our own taproom and Juicery where we are in contact with customers and newbies every day.
What are your end-of-day and early-day routine?
I think waking up early is important for one side of the brain (analytical, numbers), and staying up late great for the other side (creativity, nurture). Coffee or Black Tea in the morning – with some Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil and usually a breakfast taco with Eggs from our farm. End of day is: usually, some herbal tea, meditation/ music and/or a book before the kids go to sleep. If I can make it past that for a bit I will read or zone out on photo editing or Pinterest/Instagram before crashing out, if I’m not pulling a late night brew/work session, which I do about once a week after the kids are asleep.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a Kombucha company?
Try brewing Kombucha for a while first, then try taking it to the next level, and figuring out the best way that works for you to take it as far as you want! I see so many new Kombucha companies out there that have all the pretty stuff figured out, and are promoting a brand before anyone has even tried their brews. So many Instagram-ready products that are “close to launching”. I guess that works for some businesses, but it doesn’t feel genuine to me. To run a Kombucha company you have to have heart and soul behind it, not just dollar signs for eyes. This isn’t about the money. This is about making true medicinal beverages for people. That’s my opinion. Take it or leave it.
Apart from your computer and your phone, what gadget cannot you do without?
Upcoming products or projects?
More explorations on our CBD line of Kombuchas. Also, using terpenes in Kombucha as a flavoring agent. Building our Sustainable Boochery, breaking ground in May, hope to be done and running by November. Once we are in the new space we will be barrel aging, brewing Kombucha Cider & Beer, and diversifying our product line even more.