We had the good fortune of connecting with Nella Fusco and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nella, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
In 2015 I was living in Virginia with a newborn and breastfeeding. I had stopped drinking kombucha because I was unsure if it was beneficial to drink while breastfeeding. I met a wonderful company in Floyd, they were giving out samples of their kombucha and I picked their brain about drinking kombucha while breastfeeding. They were full of knowledge and gave me the confidence to drink it again, knowing it was good for my son and he would benefit from the microbes and bacteria through the milk. What kombucha did for me in my 20s was what I wanted to share with people, in hopes that I could help others and find relief to their ailments. I apprenticed under the couple and worked with them for a few months before moving to Florida, where I started my own kombucha company.

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 moved down from Virginia and started the company in 2015. I was the first company in Florida to brew kombucha in American oak barrels, and one of the few in the U.S. That’s the biggest thing that sets the company apart from others, most kombucha businesses ferment in glass or stainless steel. I chose the oak route because microbes LOVE porous wood, the seams from the oak barrels allow airflow to pass through creating the perfect environment for the microbes to thrive. I wanted to make a high quality, delicious tasting, life changing kombucha and I knew the oak barrels were a perfect fit for that. The oak barrels give the kombucha a smooth, rich, crisp taste and the perfect balance of sweet and sour (the way kombucha should be). I love working with herbs, roots, mushrooms & herbal teas, so a lot of my flavors are geared towards helping the body heal and I never use extra sweet fruits or any added sugars. I also work with local farmers and businesses any way I can, now more than ever we need to be helping each other out. My company also has a very low carbon footprint, and I am trying to maintain that as I grow. I reuse all boxes and shipping packaging, implement reusable growlers, try to reuse and incorporate food scraps, reuse the SCOBYs, use paper sample cups & straws and compostable cups. It is really easy to create waste in a company and I wanted to make sure that I was creating a sustainable company.

I got where I am today, from working hard, lots of failures and mistakes and a hard life event that I went through. Owning a business, a kombucha business at that, is a lot of trials, tribulations and reaching out to friends that are in the field. I don’t have a big team helping me, I have a market manager and a sales manager that have been life savers because I brew, flavor, keg, quality control and other back work to keep the business going. There are moments when it is not easy at all, and there are moments that test me where giving up would be really easy but I keep going.

I learned that it takes a village, asking for help is OK, delegating responsibility is necessary, and letting go of control to the team members in certain parts of the business is also OK and there is always going to be someone who wants you to fail. I started the kombucha business in a predominately male owned world, and being a female brewer/woman owned business has shown its obstacles but its what makes me work harder and fuels my passion even more. The biggest reminder I tell myself is “competition is good”, it helps me improve in areas that need improvement and keeps me in check, to make sure I am making the best kombucha.

I want the world to know what real kombucha tastes like. That there is a lot of deception in the kombucha market and local is always best! I am a single mom that is slowly working towards success and it’s totally possible!

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.
I would take them to preserves to show them the awesome wildlife Florida has. There is also a lot of plants, herbs, food that grow wild so I would 100% take them foraging. South Florida has a great scene for food, lots of local vegan spots. Farmers markets…I would take them to all of the farmers markets and small farms up and down the treasure coast and south Florida. We would go to my secret beach spots in Vero Beach (that is where I lived before moving down south).

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Brad and Kristi Jo from Tha Best Kombucha in Virginia were so kind to teach me and took me under their wings to make sure I was comfortable enough to start my own business. My parents, they helped me initially with my startup and are a big help with my son when I need to work. The Big Book of Kombucha & The Art of Fermentation were BIG parts of my fermentation journey. My sweet little boy Zion, he is the reason for having my own business, and is the best reminder that children need healthy microbiomes to thrive and stay healthy, mentally and emotionally.

Website: www.whisperingoakkombucha.com

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