Empowering Entrepreneurs: Interview with Health-Ade Kombucha CEO Daina Trout and CSO Vanessa Dew

Dec 8, 2017 9:25 AM ET

Women Empowering Women, One Sip at a Time

Health-Ade Kombucha was started in 2012 by best friends Daina Trout and Vanessa Dew.

In this interview, they discuss how they support female entrepreneurs through Whole Planet Foundation, and how they stay inspired as they grow their business.

As co-founders of a company run by talented women, were they your inspiration to support women entrepreneurs?  Where else do you find inspiration?

Vanessa: I have always been inspired by my mother who was our personal super hero. She was a female executive in a time when that was unconventional, and still managed to raise a family and make an amazing home for my sister and I. My mom taught me that I could do anything I set my mind to, so long as I was willing to put in the work and make sacrifices.

I can remember a particularly frustrating call with a customer when I was first starting out with Health-Ade. I was so excited to tell that customer about the wonderful innovations that allowed us to maintain our commitment to quality and small batch production, when the customer interrupted me and said, “Wow…you were able to start this business with your female best friend? You are both so young, I would have figured you were interns! I can’t believe you understand how to grow a business." I was so frustrated and hurt by his comments, I could have reacted one of two ways…but I decided to take the higher road and ultimately "killed him with kindness", as my mom would do.

Daina: I am inspired by many women. My mother—and really any mother—accomplishes so much in her day and life that is meaningful—I strive to be as smart, funny, purposeful, and impactful as my mom. Also, maverick entrepreneurs and female founders rock my world—especially those that started from nothing, like Oprah. Both Vanessa and I find inspiration from each other, and a good break on the beach.

How did you progress from wanting to do what you love, to loving what you do and supporting a charitable cause at the same time?

Vanessa: It’s always been a personal motivation to give back to the community in ways that matter to us. It was also a motivation to run our own business and write our own book, even if we didn’t know what each chapter was going to say. Whole Planet Foundation is a wonderful way to contribute to the community and empower other entrepreneurs in underserved communities that don’t have the means to get off the ground.

Daina: Running a business has a lot of ups and downs, but one of the great aspects is that YOU hold the paintbrush, and can design the painting as you wish. For us, we designed our day and our company the way we wanted—and so it includes charity. We don’t always love what we do every single second of every single day, but on the whole it feels very fulfilling.

Tell us how small-batch crafted Kombucha is made, and why the process is important to you? 

Daina: Kombucha is fermented tea, and when you make it the real way, it naturally contains probiotics and healthy organic acids. Authentic kombucha tastes delicious and makes you feel good. Vanessa and I really wanted to maintain the integrity of the drink and all that comes with it. So, we make Health-Ade the old-school REAL kombucha way—super small batches, all-glass fermentation, cold pressed juice for flavor, etc.

Vanessa: This is important because real food is important to us, and doing the RIGHT thing, even if it’s the hard/expensive thing, makes us feel accomplished. We cherish our customers' trust and won’t ever let them down.

What makes each day an opportunity to make a difference for yourself and women around the globe? 

Daina: Each day we all have a choice—we can do our best to be our best selves. The best self of 10 years ago isn’t the best self of today—and that’s a GOOD thing, because we can work day by day to continuously improve and mature. Vanessa and I are by no means perfect—and so we make mistakes and regressions. But on the whole, we give it our best shot—and over time we climb the staircase and get to the top. Part of the impact we want to have on others is to inspire them to do the same if they wish. You can do it.  

Health-Ade Kombucha is self-described as "Champion of the Happiest and Healthiest You."  How do you incorporate this into your daily life? 

Vanessa: We strongly believe in the health it takes to be happy---there’s so much information out there. Sometimes you forget that you have the answer within. What feels good to YOU and what makes YOU happy as an individual should be considered WAY more than it is currently. We’re trying to drive that movement inward. FOLLOW YOUR GUT! is our tagline for this reason. For us, it’s not about perfection or conventional health, a.k.a. “what you SHOULD do.” It’s about personal happiness, and we think taking care of your own needs is a big part of that. But it’s not perfection. 

Your company is growing by leaps and bounds. What’s your 5-year dream for Health-Ade Kombucha?

Vanessa: My dream is that Health-Ade is a household name across the US. When people think of kombucha, they think of Health-Ade.

Daina: In 5 years, my dream is that the grocery aisle looks different with way more REAL FOOD options in it and more fermented foods, like Health-Ade. Also, if we are able to inspire other entrepreneurs and females to have a voice for her own venture via Whole Planet Foundation, our world is better for it. 

What’s your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to embed a cause in their business strategy?

Daina: You hold the paintbrush and can prioritize whatever you want when you start a business. If a cause is important to you, YOU make that choice and can absolutely paint the canvas like that. Of course, in our opinion, it’s the only way to go, because making a partnership with your community only begets good juju vibes. It doesn’t have to cost a lot—small ways to give back can be very impactful if you put your mind to it. 

Learn more about Health-Ade Kombucha’s support of Whole Planet Foundation during this holiday season.