Angel Jackson, owner of Replenish Kombucha
Angel Jackson has always been interested in natural remedies. She started making cold-pressed juices, then transitioned to teas, and ultimately landed on home-brewing kombucha in her kitchen. Jackson launched Replenish Kombucha, and before long she had a food truck and loyal customers. However, she hit a roadblock in scaling up her business due to an inability to produce kombucha in high volume.
An entrepreneurship professor at the University of Memphis suggested Jackson reach out to Epicenter. After a few conversations with Epicenter, Replenish Kombucha was deemed a match for the Friends and Family Fund, a pool of money designated for small businesses to meet a one-time capital milestone. As the first Friends and Family Fund recipient, Jackson secured equipment that allows Replenish to serve 18 retail outlets and nine grocery stores.
“We just weren’t making enough product to ever be in the black,” Jackson says. “The equipment got us there. Epicenter gave us the means to scale and the encouragement to continue. Anybody can have a great idea, but that doesn’t mean you can make it a business. For Epicenter to talk with us about our profit and loss, our idea, and our business was at least as much help as the money.”
In addition to running Replenish Kombucha, Jackson teaches at a local elementary school, helping international students become academically proficient in English. Jackson became a teacher 20 years ago in order to have a schedule consistent with her children’s. “I will stop teaching,” Jackson says. “I don’t feel I can be great in teaching and entrepreneurship. I need to pick one, and I pick Replenish.
Jackson’s children are now 17 and 23, but they remain close as a family, now in entrepreneurship instead of elementary school. “One of my sons delivers, and I have another son who does bottling and makes sure that goes well. My husband helps with the brewing,” Jackson says. “It’s definitely a family affair.”
Replenish Kombucha will begin shipping in 2019, and Jackson hopes to someday open a tap room as well. “Entrepreneurship is like climbing a very tall staircase,” she says. “Commercial brewing is different from home brewing. We have a friendly Tennessee Department of Agriculture inspector that helps us with that part.”
Now able to brew kombucha in six 55-gallon barrels, Replenish is able to meet the rising demand for their product. Jackson believes Memphis has the right spirit to move small businesses in the region forward. “There are a lot of people in Memphis who want to start a business. I just heard someone say they were fired from their job but ‘that’s okay, because I’m gonna start my own business.’ We just have that drive in us,” she says. “But it can be painful if you don’t surround yourself with people and places like Epicenter. You jump in thinking you’re going to conquer the world. I thought that. But as time goes on, you can run out of steam. They have the information, the resources, the like-minded people, and trained listening ears to help you not run out of steam.”