Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Zoey Shamai, founder of Toronto-based kombucha company Tonica. Zoey first came across fermented kombucha tea while teaching yoga abroad. She was amazed by the incredible digestive aid and metabolism boost she experienced in the first 24 hours after drinking it and so she decided to make her own and turn it into a business.
We caught up with Zoey to find out what inspires her and what advice she would share with other young professionals…
1. Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I am the founder and CEO of Tonica Kombucha. We make small batches of certified organic, naturally carbonated kombucha, which we brew and bottle in Toronto.
2. What was the inspiration for your career route?
I began making kombucha for my yoga students and saw these incredibly healthy students take their digestive health to the next level. I thought if I could get kombucha out to everyone – outside of the yoga world – it would be a great health win. In terms of my inspiration as a business woman, I continue to learn from both my mother and grandmother who are both entrepreneurs and continue to school me about courage and fortitude in the world of business.
3. What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
Having Shoppers Drug Mart request Tonica Kombucha for their stores. For years, mass market retailers wouldn’t take my emails, let alone be able to identify what kombucha was. Now the buyers in these mass market retailers are seeking out natural, organic health products. It makes my heart soar! It feels like a big step into the mainstream for the little health tonic that could.
4. Where do you see yourself in five years, 10 years, 20 years?
I see myself wiser, freer and having more fun. I see the success of Tonica enabling me to create more vitality products and continuing our mission to make delicious health foods accessible to everyone.
5. Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
If you have the passion, get ready to back it up with some hard work; you will create your own good luck and flow to solidify your venture. My first yoga teacher Yogi Bhajan said, “When the pressure is on, start and the pressure will be off.” Show up every day, follow through with the projects you start, listen to the feedback from the market around you and don’t lose track of your vision.
6. Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
I support “Because I am a Girl”, a charity that focusses on empowering girls in impoverished countries by paying for their education and giving their families the means to survive so that the girls are free to study in school.
7. What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
When I started brewing kombucha virtually no one knew what kombucha was. I hit as many stores as I could to sample out my kombucha and educate people on the digestive and liver cleansing benefits of Tonica. As the stores carrying Tonica continued to grow, I was faced with the challenge of reaching more customers so that my product would move. After reading Arlene Dickinson’s biography, I decided to take my sampling to the next level and pitch Tonica on the Dragon’s Den. As luck would have it, the pitch went great!
8. What does the word notable mean to you?
Being noteworthy; Something or someone that stands out, is worthy of noting, remembering and/or acknowledging.
1. Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
I’m currently loving on Planta, a vegan restaurant in Yorkville. The plant-based food is creative and if you have to wait for a table, you can kick back in a hammock chair and listen to the live DJ.
2. What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser?
YouTube. I love watching video playlists from inspiring teachers like Wayne Dyer and Marianne Williamson at home.
3. The most played song on your phone?
Triple-tied between Damian Marley, The Rolling Stones and the soundtrack from Nashville.
4. Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
5. What’s your favourite country to visit and why?
Costa Rica, it’s so lush and green and I love the vibe of the people. Within a few hours, you can go from cloud forest to volcano to black or white sand beaches. Phenomenal! The country is also focused on green economy and green tourism.
6. And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Going to Hawaii this holiday season. I’m going on a David Wolfe Adventure and Yoga retreat. Can’t wait!
7. What gives you the greatest FOMO?
What’s FOMO? Haha. Life is full and happening as it should, no fear!
8. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Psychics & astrologers.
9. What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on?
Naturopaths & facials.
10. What’s something you wish you spent more on?
11. And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
Cohesiveness. Success feels like a floating, well-oiled machine that is effortless and yet has every piece of my heart and drop of sweat in its DNA.