Recently, I came across a really neat business – King Kava. It brought kava to Whole Foods shelves around New York City. And their founder was kind enough to grant an interview. As always, I find that successful business enterprises are based on two premises – 1) passion for the product and accept no compromises, and 2) know what you’re bringing to the table (to the consumer and potentially to the retailer, depending on your business model).
So, saw you in Kickstarter… and kava tea making seems like a complex / expensive operation, can you share your story of how you guys got started? Beg, borrow, steal? We were able to raise about $20,000.00 from friends and family that allowed us to start King Kava. We operate out of the Organic Food Incubator in Long Island City, Queens and use their equipment during production runs. Working out of an incubator reduced the cost of starting up because we can use the kitchen space whenever we need it and we didn’t have to buy very much of our own equipment.
Did you worry that American’s won’t accept kava? I am confident that there is a large market for kava in the United States, the difficult part is getting the right execution of a product with kava.
When you first approached Whole Foods, did they ask “what is kava”? Why did you think King Kava would be a good product for Whole Foods? Kava is well known enough that Whole Foods was aware of what kava is. King Kava is both organic certified and locally made, two things that Whole Foods looks for in products.
What are some of the most common questions you get from the shoppers? A lot of people are concerned kava will make it hard for them to work/make them too tired, but even though kava helps fight stress and anxiety it won’t really make you tired.
Your tea is flavored, how many recipes did you go through before landing on the final flavors? How much time did it take for you to develop your current flavors?We have probably tried like 100 different flavors! It took a lot of time to experiment with different ingredients and ideas before we got the flavors we have today. We have a bunch of great recipes that we are developing to be our next flavors.
Lack of awareness for kava is a challenge for you guys, what tactics have you tried and how have those worked? Social media? In person demo? We do a ton of in person demos. I think demos are the best way to raise awareness of a new consumer product.
How important is organic in the whole equation? We want to give our customers the most quality, sustainably farmed ingredients we can, and to us that means buying organic.
What’s next for King Kava? Do you have plans for beyond NYC? We want King Kava to be sold nationally, but we have a lot of work to do in NYC before we start selling anywhere else.
So, congrats. Your Kickstarter successfully funded. How long before we can see the new flavors on shelf? Hopefully we will be able to release some new flavors in mid June or so!
To any other young entrepreneurs out there who may be thinking about pursuing their passion, any words of advice? I don’t think anything can prepare you for the challenges of starting a company, so my advice would be to just go for it, even if you don’t totally feel you are ready. I also recommend the book Lean Startup by Eric Ries for anyone interested in entrepreneurship.
King Kava – Delicious Drink for a Stressful World. King Kava is an organic herbal relaxation tea based on the traditional kava teas of the South Pacific. Each bottle is hand filled in Long Island City, Queens. Learn more at www.kingkava.com