“Northern Initiatives was very responsive in helping me secure a loan to purchase a trailer and 55-gallon stainless fermenters. Without that, we would have stayed stagnant. The loan was the spark we needed to ignite growth.” – Alex Rowland, Owner of Superior Culture
Kombucha is a fizzy, fermented tea beverage with purported health benefits ranging from improved gut health to reduced joint inflammation. Alex Rowland was a firm believer and began brewing small batches of varying flavor profiles in his home for personal consumption. His hobby soon morphed into a multi-faceted business that revolves primarily around seasonal kombucha made from locally sourced, organic ingredients.
Superior Culture is based out of a combined production facility and taproom on Third Street in Marquette. When he first started the business in early 2017, Rowland’s approach to increasing visibility and sales was to “follow the traffic.” He began selling his kombucha by the pour or bottle at farmers’ markets and special events. He also partnered with a few clients who agreed to sell bottled Superior Culture at their businesses.
“That first summer, we consistently ran out of product,” Rowland said. “We couldn’t make enough to meet the demand. We knew we needed the capacity to produce more, but didn’t have the funding to support that. Northern Initiatives was very responsive in helping me secure a loan to purchase a trailer and 55-gallon stainless fermenters. Without that, we would have stayed stagnant. The loan was the spark we needed to ignite growth. I’m also working with Northern Initiatives on streamlined accounting systems, POS [point-of-sale] and inventory tracking systems and a new website. Those are my goals this year.”
Superior Culture’s production has swelled from 120 gallons per month initially to 720 gallons per month. Rowland has increased distribution through additional partnerships with retailers and breweries, and plans to extend his reach beyond the regional market. Kombucha is clearly the lifeblood of his business, but Rowland also produces an alcoholic version that is served in the Superior Culture taproom along with other fermented beverages: beer, wine, cider and sake.
“The taproom is awesome, with the bar made from upcycled materials and a big front window. I’m learning how to market a stationary space so that people come to visit us once in a while instead of us always following them. Everything about this business is a process, but it’s giving me an opportunity to fuel my passion and support myself in an area I love. It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come in a short time, knowing this all started with a glass jar of experimental kombucha in my kitchen.”