When Priscilla Njenga left her job as a high school teacher in 2018, a lot of questions boggled her mind, but perhaps the most important one was, “Is it worth the risk?”
She had just abandoned the only stable source of income she had known, to plunge into the uncertain world of entrepreneurship.
But the doubts did not stop her from setting up Royal Brekkers which produces Kombucha, a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast.
“I wanted to create something healthy that people can take instead of soda or juice,” she says of the product branded Mohawk Kombucha which is probiotic, meaning it stimulates healthy digestion.
Kombucha is particularly very beneficial for people with gastritis, irregular bowel movement, and acidity. It also helps to reduce sugar cravings, which has made it an in-demand product in the healthy lifestyle market.
How is it produced?
Priscilla produces her Kombucha using purple and green teas that she sources from Kangaita Tea Factory.
When she started she had no prior experience in manufacturing. She relied on YouTube tutorials to get basic knowledge on the preparation of Kombucha.
“I am also a member of a worldwide organisation of Kombucha beverage makers, which allows me to keep exchanging information and learning from other producers across the globe.”
The production of Kombucha tea is a two-step process.
“First, we steep the purple or green tea in a barrel. Then we add a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast culture and leave it to ferment for 14 days to create raw kombucha,” says Priscilla. The barrels are sealed to keep air from coming in.
The second step is flavouring the kombucha. “We have five different flavours; mango, blueberry, ginger, strawberries, and raspberries.” Priscilla sources their flavouring products from the local market.
Once flavoured, the kombucha is packaged in black bottles and stored for four days to condition it before it is ready for the market. Kombucha tea is stored in dark bottles to protect it from sunlight.
Her being a new brand, Priscilla knew she had to do the groundwork in terms of marketing.
“I produced my first 10 Mohawk Kombucha bottles in 2018. I went to the Organic Farmers Market and got no sales.”
Not one to give up, she returned to the market the following week and sold 30 bottles. “A woman came by and was impressed by the potential health benefits of Kombucha. She raved a lot about it around the market capturing people’s curiosity.”
Since then it has been a case of repeat customers. With time Mohawk Kombucha has outgrown the Organic Farmers Market and is now stocked in several online and physical outlets including Kalimoni Greens, Zucchini Greengrocers, Chandarana and Quickmart supermarkets, and Healthy U.
“We have graduated from the production of 10 bottles a week to 1,500 bottles every week,” Priscilla says.
Royal Brekkers makes a 30 per cent profit after production which is often ploughed back into the business. The 500 ml bottle retails at Sh210, while the 250 ml bottle costs Sh110.
“Once we reduce production costs, we will be able to sell Mohawk Kombucha at a more pocket-friendly price," Priscilla says.
When she was establishing the firm, Priscilla tried courting angel investors but didn't succeed. She was forced to fund her business out of her own pockets.
“This has been a self-funding experience. We’d like to be more mechanical and have more products in the shop without having to rush to replace the products. However, we are constrained by the lack of adequate facilities.”
Kombucha tea requires cold temperatures. However, without a cold room, the firm can only produce on demand.
“Our products run out and we have to wait for some time before we can deliver as the fermentation process takes some time. Sometimes we end up losing some clients as a result.”
For the future, Priscilla hopes to scale up production at her factory located in her home backyard in Kiambaa, Kiambu County by acquiring big fermentation tanks, carbonation equipment to accelerate the carbonation in good time, and cold rooms.
She hopes to hire more employees as well. “We are still a small business. There are two of us doing the production work, one salesperson and a driver who does the deliveries,” she says.
“My vision is to have more people consume healthy products and lead healthier lifestyles.”
The Kombucha tea market is expected to reach $4.84 billion in 2026, according to a report by Business Research Company.
Does Priscilla now think quitting her teaching job to set up the firm was worth it? "Definitely," she says.