Emily Helmus, Bloom Ferments, Grand Rapids, MI, USA

Q: When did you first discover Kombucha?

I first discovered kombucha during my sophomore year in college. A friend’s family made it at home in 2-3 gallon jars and I was both repulsed and intrigued by it. After building up the confidence a few months later to try it, I was hooked by the end of my first bottle! A few months later, a friend obtained a mother and shared one of hers with me. The rest is history!

Q: Why did you start your own Kombucha company?

It was my naturopath who convinced me to start selling! I was making kombucha at home for a while and quickly fell head over heels in love with the craft of fermenting. I made booch for myself and my friends as well as my naturopath, Micah. Insurance doesn’t cover holistic care so he let me barter with him for our visits. About a year after first seeing him, he sat me down at the beginning of an appointment and said “Look, you’re really good at this and need to sell it.” I had just dropped out of college and wasn’t sure what I was doing with life, but always knew that I wanted a career centered around food. So I went all in and decided to make it a licensed business. I wanted other people to heal from digestive ailments knowing first hand how miserable they can be, and kombucha was a fun and creative way to help!

Q: What is your favorite flavor of kombucha? (a brand that is not your own)?

Buchi’s “Sovereign,” their peach, ginger, molasses flavor, is hands down the best kombucha ever. I first tried it at KombuchaKon 2015 and became entranced by it. “Sovereign” is my spirit kombucha. I would wear a bottle on a string around my neck every day if I could in the same way people wear healing crystals! I get excited about “Sovereign” just thinking about it.

Q: What is your former/current other life or career?

I’m in my mid 20’s so kombucha is my first career. I trained to be a birth doula for a while before deciding to start Bloom Ferments and would like to be involved with birth and labor later in life if possible.

Q: What is a saying that you live by?

It’s not so much a saying as it is a philosophy. The idea is from Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong. In the book her husband says, “All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what could or should be.” When I encounter a difficult situation with a customer, colleague, or employee, instead of thinking that they could be acting selfishly, lazily, or angrily, I believe they are doing the best they can in whatever situation they are in. It helps me feel empathy for them and puts things into perspective. I picture their point of view, imagine the feelings they have, and then negotiate the situation from there. It brings me a sense of peace and helps me not to feel attacked or victimized. Running my business this way is very important to me.