With $800 in her bank account, a library card, and a vision for her company, Kate Field founded The Kombucha Shop. The Kombucha Shop (TKS) provides kits and tips for at-home brewing of kombucha (a fermented tea drink), and is established on the idea that wellness and health should be accessible and enjoyable for all. During its initial months as a company in 2013, many operations of TKS were carried out at the Madison Public Library.
“I would bike [to the library], summer or winter, and I would log onto the computers, print off my shipping labels with the printer paper and cut them out with the scissors. I would bike back to my warehouse, and I would put them on my packages and ship them out. It didn’t take long, but it was actually surprising how long I did that. It was definitely like two months before I made enough money where I could afford to buy an office printer.”
The inspiration to utilize free printing was inspired by using the libraries for office space as well. Kate says, “I actually got the idea from Central Library. I would go there to work on my business. I was basically renting a storage closet to pack and ship my orders from, and it was not a nice place to sit and work on my website, newsletters and customer support. So I would go to the library downtown and sit in the beautiful, sunny corner spot that I love on the second or third floor, and I would do all the things I needed to do to run my business.”
Today, The Kombucha Shop is one of the largest and most reliable home brew kombucha companies in the nation, even scoring a deal on the popular TV show Shark Tank in the fall of 2018. Needless to say, TKS can now manage their operations in their own warehouse. “It’s been a big change,” says Kate.
When asked about advice she would give to folks in a similar position, Kate suggests looking for the resources that already exist. “Don't reinvent the wheel. Don’t go out and rent a whole office if you have no sales yet. Go use the beautiful free library that's downtown and their free wifi!”
She believes it's about taking a step back and realizing how much value already exists in your city, and then starting from there. “I really sought out as much support as I could from the wider community.” Kate would even have people meet her at the library for a business meeting, renting out the library’s conference rooms. “It makes you feel like you’re coming from a place of a lot more wealth, even if you don’t have it. You’re like, ‘Actually I could totally start this company because I have a lot at my disposal.’”
Visit madisonpubliclibrary.org/business to learn more about Madison Public Library entrepreneurship events and services available for growing businesses.