We had the good fortune of connecting with Chad Huniu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chad, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
When we started Fermensch Kombucha, I had no idea what I was doing. I was 25. I’d never owned my own company. I had minimal production management experience. I had never had anything to do with the financial side of a business. Even when we were still in the process of starting up, looking for a place to brew our kombucha, working on branding, and so forth, I just didn’t know what to do with myself, but I had a ton of energy. I would work the entire day. I’d be on my computer researching and trying to figure out what we needed to do up to the point I would finally crawl in bed. But because I didn’t know what I was doing, my work was less than effective, you know?
I was impassioned, but kind of aimless. Once we got really going and growing, it was my father and I doing everything. Having owned his own business, he is a wealth of knowledge on so many things. But his business was in wheel and auto parts, and we were making kombucha. So we had to learn everything as it came. And because of that we had to work hard and work a ton. Production, sales, deliveries, Quickbooks and accounting, farmers markets, marketing and the necessary time-suck that is Instagram and social media. It was a 7 day a week, all hours of the day, kind of deal for me. I felt like before the pandemic, I’d gotten into a good swing of things.
My wife and I got married a month before the quarantine, so a lot of our energies and time were going toward that. We had grown to the point where we could support 3 employees to help in production, wholesale deliveries, sales, and farmers markets. I was able to have time off on the weekends. I was able to have more normal work hours each day. And then came coronavirus and everything got turned on its head. Like so many other companies, we pivoted. We started doing a ton of contactless home deliveries, which we’d never done before. We added several more farmers markets to make ends meet. Our wholesale side of the business had essentially been cut in half, and that’s a generous figure. So I was back to working 6 or 7 days a week, long hours, filled with uncool levels of stress and anxiety. I was working longer and harder for half the sales. It was a little brutal at first. Mostly the stress of it. But that’s simply what the business required from me and continues to require from me. So while my work life balance has gone back to a total and complete blur, I’m happy to give Fermensch Kombucha my all. I love making kombucha and serving our community. I still love coming into work each day.
One good thing that has come about due to the pandemic was my wife starting to work more for Fermensch. Having unfortunately lost her job like so many others in March, we’d always talked about her working full time for the company. It was kind of the perfect opportunity. She does so many things we need from graphic design and marketing to sales and customer service. And I get to see my wife more!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The thing that gives me the most joy, and that really sets Fermensch Kombucha apart, is the creativity and care we put into our flavors. I suppose I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to how our product tastes. We have always tried to make the best tasting kombucha possible. We do this by using only the best organic ingredients and utilizing them in ways that maximize their flavors. We take a lot of pride in perfecting our recipes until they are exactly right. Our most popular flavor Bloom, for instance, was a work in progress for 2 years. I just kept tinkering with it until it was perfect. If you haven’t had it, Bloom is blueberry, lavender and chamomile kombucha, made with a special blend of black and green teas. It is sweet and tart, flavorful and delicate, floral and fruity. It really is a perfect example of what we do.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Look, I’m a shameless foodie. Everything we’d do would have to be focused around where to eat or drink next. We’d start every day at one of the OC’s many fine coffee shops. Neat Coffee, Kit Coffee, Hidden House, Bear Coast. For lunch maybe we’d grab tacos at Lupe’s, Wild Taco, or Vibe Organic Kitchen. Or we could go to Westminster for pho, Little India for dosas, Garden Grove for sizzling hot stone bimbimbap. We really have everything here. I don’t surf, but I love the water, so maybe we’d grab some wine from Hi-Times and go out sailing or have a bonfire on the beach. For dinner, we’d have to eat at Taco Maria or Gabbi’s at some point. And if we weren’t in this pandemic, we’d cap off the night at Perq’s in downtown Huntington Beach singing karaoke and making fools of ourselves.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
One hundred percent have to shoutout my father, and business partner, Norman Huniu. Without him Fermensch Kombucha would not exist. He is an amazing human being. He’s the hardest working man on the planet. He can always make something out of nothing and is one of the most positive people I know. I’m convinced he lives on a plane of existence where there are 4 more hours in the day. I also wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without the mentorship of Stephanie Morgan, chef-owner of Seabirds Kitchen. She taught me how to cook, discover new ingredients and flavors, and encouraged me to follow my passions with fermentation. And she could be tough on me, always challenging me to work harder, better, faster, and smarter.
Tara Deaton Photography