We had the good fortune of connecting with Jon Mathisen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jon, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
When I first started this business I had zero work/life balance. Of course, it takes a lot of work to start a business from scratch and get it off the ground but I also felt a lot of pressure to “hustle” out of fear that someone else would beat me to the market. I was averaging about three hours of sleep a night and that wasn’t sustainable. I would often turn down opportunities to hang out with my friends and hardly ever treated myself to a night off. I developed an odd sense of guilt if I wasn’t working and/or took a little time off. It took a while for me to realize that the all work no play mindset was having a negative impact on my mental health and my mood. I realized that I needed to achieve equilibrium in my life and that was the only way for me to grow as a person and for my business to prosper. Over the years I’ve developed a much healthier work/life balance. Once my business was built up enough and I had systems in place I learned to let go a little bit, which can be scary at first. For example, if a business ordered a case of ginger beer I wouldn’t drop everything to make that delivery right away like I did in the past. It was okay if I waited until I was able to fit it into my schedule. I realized giving myself personal time was important for my mental health and if I felt good then my business would follow. You can only burn the candle at both ends for so long before it takes its toll. Balance in every aspect of your life is key and sometimes it’s takes us a while to realize it.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I started the business along with my brother back in 2014. We make non-alcoholic ginger beers and ginger cordials. Over the years, we’ve produced a plethora of limited-edition and seasonal varieties but our Original and Turmeric Black Pepper flavors are by far the most popular. Our quality sets us apart from other beverages, I think, and that comes from continuing to produce in small batches. The process itself certainly takes more time and effort than producing on a larger scale but the organic ingredients and attention to detail have helped foster a strong, loyal following. 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone so at this point I am proud to still be in operation and continuing to produce and deliver a product that people enjoy. It hasn’t been easy, by any means, but to still have customers that we gained back in 2015 continue to support us now, during the pandemic, has been amazing. There has been no shortage of challenges, especially this year, when it’s come to running a small beverage business. The service and hospitality industry, in particular, have been hit very hard. The majority of accounts that purchased our products are restaurants, cafes, and bars; sadly, many of them have closed their doors permanently on account of the pandemic. As a result, we’ve had to pivot and started offering a direct-to-consumer option. Back in the spring we started delivering product to customers with contactless delivery. Navigating the ever-changing regulations in Los Angeles County and the state of California has been another challenge. Staying nimble and flexible as a person and a business has been more important than ever and that is the biggest lesson I’ve taken away from this year. You can’t be scared to pivot and you need to do whatever you can to survive as a business at this point. Safety is of the utmost importance these days and we’ve had to make sure we follow the ever-changing rules closely for the health of community and city at large. Small businesses have been inordinately affected by the pandemic fallout, which is heart breaking. But it’s been amazing to see all of the support that independent food/beverage businesses have shown each other. It’s cool to see all of the collaborations and partnerships that have been forged in this difficult climate. We’re currently partnered with several other businesses on a meal kit service, a spin off beverage, and are in talks to work on some private label partnerships. The biggest takeaway from all of this is that it’s so important to keep an open mind and be willing to try new things, even if they may not seem like a perfect fit or make you uncomfortable initially.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m pretty into the outdoors so no trip to Los Angeles is complete without a hike in the San Gabriel Mountains. Some of my favorites treks are Mt. Baldy, Mt. Baden-Powell, and Telegraph Peak. We’d also hit the South Bay for some surf and bust out the fishing poles for some urban angling. Echo Park Lake near downtown LA and Legg Lake in El Monte are underrated fishing spots. You can also go fly fishing on the LA river near Atwater Village! LA has a wealth of art museums, too, so a trip to the Getty or the Getty Villa is always a good time. LACMA and the Broad are excellent choices as well. If my friend is feeling like a fine dining experience, Perch in downtown LA is awesome. Burgers Never Say Die in Silver Lake is an excellent choice for a more casual experience. Civil Coffee in Highland Park and Maury’s Bagels in Silver Lake are both great for quick breakfast/brunch options. The main thing about a trip to LA is taking advantage of the great weather this city has to offer, especially in the winter time, which is usually when I get visitors.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are honestly too many people to name here but my close friends and family deserve a special shout out. Starting and operating your own business can be a lonely endeavor and you can feel like it’s just you and your business partner(s) against the world. But if you have a tight knit family and friend group, you’re never alone. I’ve had a strong circle that has supported me from the very beginning; they’ve encouraged me to press on when I felt like giving up and picked me up when I was down.