RIP: Komadre Kombucha, Tacoma, Washington

Statistics show that 50% of small businesses fail within five years. In October, we looked at general numbers for the kombucha industry. This is the story behind one person’s decision to move on.

Julie Davidson opened Komadre Kombucha in Tacoma, Washington, at the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020. She used government grants to fund her start-up but, after a four-year journey, decided to close earlier this month.

The decision to close was not an easy one. She wrote on Instagram:

With my heart full of gratitude, I announce the closure of Komadre Kombucha. What an incredible journey filled with growth, passion, and community spirit. If you’re newer to KoKo, you might not know that its origin story contains a big bold pivot. Back in 2020, my other small business (a consulting and coaching firm) took a nosedive thanks to the covid lockdown. All but my smallest contracts disappeared overnight. After a fair amount of wallowing and worrying, I embraced the chaos and embarked on a new adventure. My kombucha home brewing hobby morphed into a multipronged business strategy, including a one-of-a-kind taproom, subscription program, markets, events, and commercial distribution. I learned so much, met the most amazing people, and strengthened my business acumen every damn day.

After about a year of operation it became increasingly clear that my “do it all at once” model was unsustainable, so in December 2022 I closed the taproom and refocused on distribution and subscriptions. Once again in a big bold pivot, KoKo rallied and found footing with a small yet substantial increase in our distribution program. We teetered on the brink of profitability. Meanwhile, another opportunity opened up: a chance to return to my consulting and coaching roots. I was honored and delighted to say “yes” to serving small business owners as a mentor, advisor, and coach for some local leadership programs. I also joined the ranks of a national coaching group that works with The Obama Foundation and several other inspiring nonprofits and companies. In short, I feel a clarion call to clear the runway for coaching. Closing Komadre Kombucha makes space for me to create a greater impact in the lives of others. I feel deep appreciation for each and every one of you who has cheered me on along the way; in some cases you’ve moved from taproom visitors to coaching program participants! Your unwavering support has been the cornerstone of my success.


As a 20-year veteran of entrepreneurial ventures in the San Francisco Bay Area and Puget Sound region, including running a multi-million-dollar-generating boutique coaching and consulting firm, she was excited to launch her own “brick and mortar” business.

Komadre translates from Spanish as “co-mother,” and Julie’s goal was to not only sell kombucha to the growing number of people who loved her home brew but also celebrate her Central American and Caribbean heritage and bring along and uplift other women and people of color/Latinx entrepreneurs. To that end, she sought collaborations with bakers, makers, and other Latinx/POC small business owners in the region. Her store and taproom became a thriving community space.


From the start, Julie partnered with James from Shen Zen Tea, who produced their own brand of kombucha in Seattle. They handled the primary fermentation and she infused the specific flavors in a secondary fermentation in her taproom in Tacoma.

She built the business via a distributor and directly through consumer subscription sales. At one point, it was available in 25 outlets around the Puget Sound area. At its peak, the taproom sold 200-250 gallons a month. However, the taproom never achieved profitability. In December 2022, she closed the taproom. This had the unfortunate side effect of the primary fermentation and secondary flavorings no longer under her direct control, and quality suffered, leading to a drop in the subscription business. By the summer of 2023, she had closed the subscription business.

When it came time to close for good, she looked for buyers, but the numbers were not attractive.

Julie takes away three main lessons that she suggests other small kombucha companies would find valuable.


  1. Slow down. The initial government funds created a false sense of security, and she now acknowledges that she expanded too quickly. There’s such a thing as having too many funds at the start. This liability would not have happened if she had spent time at farmers’ markets learning, listening to consumers, and beta-testing her brand.
  2. Consider partnering. Don’t try and do it alone. Find others to help you do it better, faster, and cheaper. Perhaps there is a distressed kombucha company locally you can inject new life into.
  3. Everything has an ending. Be prepared for an exit and know when and how to call time on your venture.


Julie has returned to her roots and offers professional development, small business coaching, and consulting via the


Listen to the podcast to hear Julie’s story in her own words.

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