Summer is here, so it's time to change things up and head down south to Juneshine. We are led to believe it's the world's first kumbucha bar, located in the heart of North Park, San Diego. Why? Well, because it's 2018, and cold beers are sooo last summer, and because well... kombucha.
Interview by: Ali Hartwig
Photos: Vivian Kim
Introduce yourselves a little, tell us who you are
We are Greg and Forrest, co-founders of JuneShine, a hard kombucha company and San Diego’s own hard kombucha bar. We’re led to believe we are the first hard kombucha bar in the world.
Are you guys from San Diego?
Forrest is originally from Maui, and Greg is originally from Massachusetts. We met during our first week attending the University of San Diego, a school we probably both chose primarily due to our love of surfing, and secondarily education.
How did you meet each other?
We cannot recall exactly – it was somewhat foreign for us meeting, Greg being from Massachussets, and Forrest form the Islands. We had to skate by one another’s dorms to get to class, somewhere along the way we became fast friends.
How did the idea of Juneshine evolve, and become a reality?
After college we went our separate ways. Forrest went into the photo and film world, starting with surfing and branching out from there. Just last year he toured with Isaiah Rashad (on Kendrick Lamar’s label) and helped in filming Nervous Laughter, which won Surf Documentary of the Year. Greg sold his soul for a couple of years working a gig on wall street, and from there had a unique opportunity of taking a senior role at a venture-backed healthcare start up. We always kept in touch thinking of businesses we could launch, given our different but complimentary skill sets. We always joked in college that we would trade in kombucha for the shit beer we were drinking, if only the kombucha had the same amount of alcohol. Being social, and having a passion for all sports outdoors, we were always staying up late and then waking up early to surf or fish or snowboard while our friends slept in. We learned there were few folks actually trying to make high abv kombucha, which reinvigorated our interest in the idea. Greg ran some test brews (a couple were great, and a couple were terrible). We did some research and realized we had an idea that not only solved a problem for us, but also for a larger market. Friends saw the potential we had to disrupt the market and that enabled us to put together some capital. Greg quit his job first and drove across country, Forrest wrapped up some projects and joined shortly thereafter. Then our first hire was our amazing brewer, Josh Makler, who has been in the trenches with us for a long time now.
Having multiple guys involved means there are more decisions and opinions in the air, what were the biggest struggles each of you had? And if any, how did you get past them?
Each of us has worked at businesses of various scales and successes, and picked up on a few common traits of businesses that work well, and copied and pasted those models into our own. Three keys to making sure we hear everyone’s opinion without causing a fist fight or slowing our progress are: 1. Clear hierarchy (not overly corporate, just know who has final call on what) 2. Division of responsibility and 3. Communicating any issues as soon as those issues arise. We are not saying we haven’t had a few difficult conversations, but in all honesty, it’s been smooth sailing. We have an amazing team, we cannot stress that enough.
Where did the name "JuneShine" come from?
We make jun kombucha, which means we use green tea and honey. Most kombuchas use black tea and sugar. We wanted to express this difference in our name. If we had a penny for every name we came up with, we would be very wealthy. Some of the names were so bad, we mean bad bad. Once we started tossing “Bad and Boochie” around, we realized we were losing our minds. JuneShine is a combination of jun and sunshine, and has a slight play on words alluding to moonshine – we are hard kombucha, afer all.
How many flavors do you guys have, and what are your favorites
Josh, our brewer, is a flavor wizard. He’s always telling us flavors he wants to try, and we stress experimenting, so we do not hold back. We are surprised time and time again on just how on point Josh has been. We personally love our Berry Beet. We are proud of ourselves for creating an all organic alcohol that has both fruit and vegetables and tastes amazing. This flavor truly showed us that we can disrupt an industry that has neglected the environment and health for so long.
What are your most memorable memories throughout this entire process?
We are only six months in, but we have had some amazing times. This is not a specific memory, but before we signed our lease we were brewing in a garage. We invested a lot of money into premium equipment, we had a very legitimate set up. But the garage itself was dilapidated and looked like it might fall down at any point. Folks would walk by and look at us with the wildest expressions on their face – it was straight out of Breaking Bad.
How is it possible that Is each glass really 6% alcohol?
Transparency is one of our four core values. Therefore, we are happy to share how make our product, and what we use. We would challenge the big beer and wine companies to do the same. We ferment our kombucha, and after doing so place our kombucha in a secondary ferment using organic cane sugar and organic yeast. By the end of the fermentation process the sugar has been wholly fermented out, and converted to alcohol. And then we add organic juices and organic spices.
Building something from the ground up is inspiring and badass, especially for how young you all are; what would one piece of advice you would give to others that are having difficulties starting their own startup?
Let us first stress that have not yet built anything, we have not yet achieved any success, and we are not of the opinion of ourselves that we should be issuing any advice at that point. We always tell ourselves: stay humble and stay hungry. Maybe come to us with that question in a few years!