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Gt dave

With the typical discarded sports gear and left over snacks in a teenager's bedroom, one might not be surprised to find bacteria growing. But in the mid s, year-old George Thomas "GT" Dave, was purposely growing fermented bacteria in 5-gallon glass jugs around his room to brew his own kombucha — and it spawned a nearly billion-dollar business. Celebrities like Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna and Reese Witherspoon have reportedly been spotted drinking his kombucha. The U. Kombucha is a fermented, carbonated drink with living micro-organisms that dates back more than 2, years in Eastern Asia and has been long associated with a variety of health benefits some more dubious than others. But "the word 'kombucha' didn't really exist" in Americans' vocabulary when Dave first started his home-brewing operation 25 years ago, he tells CNBC Make It. Growing up in the wealthy Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, Dave's dad a lawyer and mom who worked at department store I. Magnin were heavily influenced by Eastern philosophies and spirituality, with the family even taking spiritual vacations to Indian ashrams. They were also dedicated health nuts with a penchant for introducing their children to new age foods. His parents, Laraine and Michael Dave, were introduced to kombucha by friends who gave them a Scoby acquired on a trip to the Himalayas.
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In-store sales have since rebounded, and the company is taking its first steps in the direct-to-consumer space. Even brands that are able to sell through ecomm have seen certain areas of their channels completely wiped out. But it definitely was a wild ride. To put it simply, it was an up, and then a down, and then a slow climb back up. The behavior of the consumer dramatically changed within March and April this year. People were panic buying, they were going to the stores less frequently and buying different kinds of foods in different packaging. There was a time where anything that was considered single serve, like our ounce bottle, was basically dead. It was multi-serve, family size, bulk packaging that you were seeing consumers buy. And of course, there was this remarkable shift toward making food at home. Certain foods like baked goods and milk and eggs started to skyrocket as kids were staying at home and parents were trying to find ways to stay busy and productive.

Within five minutes of meeting me, GT Dave, creator of the wildly popular fermented probiotic beverage GT's Kombucha , tells me the story of his conception:. Late one night, his father rolled over and made love to his mother "in the lotus position, of all positions," he says. GT's meticulously coifed year-old mom, Laraine Dave, is sitting across from us in the living room of her hilltop home, a white modernist affair perched above a steep canyon in L. She grins and leans into the conversation, no sign of embarrassment. If he can tell that I fail to fully grasp the miracle, GT is unfazed. He's explaining how destiny has driven his success, even before he was born, and he's dead serious about it. His parents already had two sons that special night, he tells me, and didn't necessarily want a third. But one son, Justin, had a life-threatening heart condition. Laraine had meditated on her family's future and ended up vowing to go off contraceptives and let fate take over. After GT arrived, the family had a streak of good fortune.

Within five minutes of meeting me, GT Dave, creator of the wildly popular fermented probiotic beverage GT's Kombucha , tells me the story of his conception:. Late one night, his father rolled over and made love to his mother "in the lotus position, of all positions," he says. GT's meticulously coifed year-old mom, Laraine Dave, is sitting across from us in the living room of her hilltop home, a white modernist affair perched above a steep canyon in L.

She grins and leans into the conversation, no sign of embarrassment. If he can tell that I fail to fully grasp the miracle, GT is unfazed. He's explaining how destiny has driven his success, even before he was born, and he's dead serious about it. His parents already had two sons that special night, he tells me, and didn't necessarily want a third. But one son, Justin, had a life-threatening heart condition. Laraine had meditated on her family's future and ended up vowing to go off contraceptives and let fate take over.

After GT arrived, the family had a streak of good fortune. Justin's health stabilized, and his parents' marital stresses subsided. In GT's view, the story of his company is rooted in the Eastern philosophies his parents followed they frequently took their kids to a famous ashram in India , the family's various health struggles, and his own altruistic intentions.

His parents' taste for homebrewed kombucha played into all those things, and GT eventually saw himself as a sort of conduit for spreading the love, the missionary of an almost magical elixir. The story may also be seen as one of extraordinary bootstrapped growth. Before GT's, there was no such thing as commercial kombucha. According to an Inc.

The category, which started in local health-food markets and went national thanks to Whole Foods, has now spread to Safeway and even Walmart. And he's never bought an ad, preferring to let the product speak for itself--which it does rather effectively when it shows up in the hands of Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, and other paparazzi targets.

Perhaps most remarkably, GT did it all without any training or experience, without even graduating from high school, and certainly without anything resembling a business plan. He was all of 17 when he started the company in his parents' kitchen 20 years ago. Today he's the envy of the beverage world, an upstart who single-handedly created a blockbuster new category.

He's also, lately, a prime target. When you create a new category, you create a platform for competitors. And when you maintain an almost religious devotion to handcrafting your wares, it can be both your biggest strength and biggest vulnerability.

Thanks to mega specialty markets like Whole Foods, a niche product once relegated to crunchy co-ops can reach consumers almost everywhere. But such scale brings pressures that can erode the artisanal principles that made the item so special to begin with. In this way, the saga of GT's Kombucha is both road map and cautionary tale for quirky, handmade upstarts. For now, GT is still comfortably in command, but the next chapter of his story promises to test the limits of his destiny--and his purity.

If you've never tried kombucha, imagine drinking a sweet-tart cider vinegar that's carbonated like beer and has a few little chunks swimming around in it.

It's made of slightly sweetened tea--green, black, or both--that ferments for up to a month while a mushroom-looking blob floats on top of it. The blob is the key ingredient. Known as a scoby for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast , it essentially eats the sugar, tannic acids, and caffeine in the tea, and creates a cocktail of live microorganisms that many believe to be beneficial.

Scobys constantly grow and reproduce, and their offspring are something of a currency among kombucha devotees, who use them in homebrewing. Kombucha is, shall we say, an acquired taste. But historically, taste wasn't the point. Most accounts of kombucha's history go back to BCE in China, where it was known as the "tea of immortality. Kombucha's actual effects are a matter of debate. Plenty of studies have shown that probiotic foods--fermented dishes like kimchi, sauerkraut, unpasteurized yogurt, and kombucha--aid digestion and help maintain intestinal health.

There's also evidence that consuming live bacteria can boost the immune system and stave off allergies. Modern commercial kombuchas like GT's often include supplemental ingredients such as ginger or juices that have their own documented health benefits and also make the stuff taste better.

True believers, though, tout kombucha as a treatment for just about everything, including baldness, acne, hangovers, AIDS, and cancer. The ex-agent's wife had gotten it from a friend who'd picked it up from a Buddhist nun. But preferring his juices, he gave it to Michael, who took up homebrewing. Laraine started bringing his kombucha to the luxury department store I. Magnin, where she sold jewelry.

In July , Laraine found a lump in her breast. Doctors diagnosed a fast-growing cancer. Around the time that Laraine underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Los Angeles Magazine cited her as the force behind "the mushroom that's sweeping L. Magnin wanting to buy kombucha, and one night at the family dinner table, she mentioned all the interest she was getting.

GT looked up from his plate and said, "Mom, you should do this. You should make it available for everyone. Think of all the people it could help. Look what it's done for you. It was nearly a month before GT's 17th birthday. He had recently dropped out of Beverly Hills High after falling in with the wrong crowd and slacking off.

Self-aware enough to know that he needed to make a change, he had gotten his GED and signed up for some classes at the local community college. Laraine gazed across the table at her smart, charismatic, somewhat lost son. Along the refrigerator wall at Erewhon, a bustling natural-foods grocery on Beverly Boulevard, several dozen rows of GT's Kombucha dominate all other drinks. Flavors include Mystic Mango, Cosmic Cranberry, Guava Goddess, and so on, in a rainbow of colors peeking out from behind retro labels that evoke a 19th-century tonic.

Now 36 and buffed to a high shine, GT--it's short for George Thomas--carries himself with a bouncy, contagious energy. Sculpted biceps emerge from the short and cuffed sleeves of his Alexander McQueen button-down. Impossibly snug khaki pants reveal smooth and sockless ankles.

On Saturdays, he drives his Lamborghini. Overall, he has a sort of ageless and Photoshopped look that suggests someone who takes very expensive care of himself--or maybe just drinks a ton of kombucha. Which he does. That includes sampling batches while they're fermenting to monitor effervescence and other factors, testing finished product to check flavor, and buying bottles from stores to understand the customer experience.

He considers himself something of a kombucha artist, and doesn't trust anyone else to have a palate as finely tuned as his. Beverages are a high-margin business, but experts say kombucha is extraordinary. The most important ingredient, the scoby, is free and self-replicating. Everything else--tea and sugar and whatever dash of flavoring gets added at the end--doesn't cost much more, even if you use only the finest raw materials, as both GT and Reed claim to. GT won't say so, but bringing me to Erewhon illustrates his hold on the market--he controls something north of 60 percent, he says, and likely much more at this hometown store.

Beyond that, he won't discuss financial details. Erewhon is also where his business began, just a few months after GT's fateful dinner conversation with Laraine. After tinkering with the recipe to make something more palatable than his dad's vinegary brew, he put on a suit, stuffed a legal pad and a calculator into a briefcase, and set off to pitch Erewhon, his dad at his side to lend gravitas. He had created a black and white logo inspired by his mom's Chanel cosmetics, and he measured meticulously before affixing a homemade label three inches from the bottom of each of his bottles, so they'd look like they'd come off an assembly line.

Thanks to the magazine article about Laraine, customers were already asking for kombucha, so a deal was easy. The first order--two cases, or 24 bottles--nearly sold out on the first day. The next year and a half became a blur of brewing and bottling and pitching. GT's kombucha factory, initially a few punch bowls on the counter, outgrew the family kitchen and took over the dining room. GT started sleeping from 4 p. He created alter egos--Jorge the delivery guy, George the cook, and GT the president--to sound like he had employees when he talked to his growing list of retailers.

Laraine pitched in by becoming chief product-demo officer. GT sent her to stores, where she'd set up tasting tables. It stimulates your metabolism," she'd say. She'd promise people better skin after a month of drinking kombucha--if they drank it daily. She learned that the local Hasidic Jews were open to serving the drink to their kids. The beverage aisle of the '90s was not like today's, where every upscale market has a dozen different pressed juices and superfruit power drinks.

And there was a sense of discovery. But as business began to thrive, Justin got sick again. As a baby, his recurring heart problems were treated by blessings from Sathya Sai Baba--the family's holy man in India--and surgeons in L. Now the diagnosis was a rare and terminal cancer.

As GT worked nights furiously filling orders, Justin hunched over on his knees in the living room, unable to walk or even lie in bed. GT would turn away from his tasks to help his big brother go to the bathroom, or lift him into a more comfortable position. And juxtaposed to that is my brother dying, being stripped of everything he felt was important--the physique, the popularity, all the pride and ego.

When Justin died, the stress tore GT's parents apart. It was December , and GT realized it was time to go pro. He was more than two years into his adventure, selling 30 to 50 cases a day, and had strained his homebrew operation beyond capacity. He rented a 2,square-foot industrial space in Gardena, just outside of L. If the early days of GT's Kombucha are a triumph of precocious instincts and timing, the company's jump to adulthood owes much to Whole Foods.



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