Elixir Kombucha Outgrows Chef Space, Goes Next-Level With Community Economic Development Funding Loan Through Community Ventures

Corey and Danielle Wood, co-founders of Elixir Kombucha, have an ongoing relationship with Community Ventures that dates all the way back to 2016 when they decided to take the leap and turn their bubbly, probiotic-rich homebrewed beverage into a business. The Louisville natives found the mentorship, support and affordable commercial kitchen space they needed to launch close by at Chef Space, Community Ventures’ innovative kitchen incubator in the city’s Russell neighborhood.

“With healthcare backgrounds, we didn’t have any business education and barely had any startup capital,” explained Corey Wood. “Having a place like Chef Space to come into at a very affordable rate and get our feet under us was crucial. If we didn’t have Chef Space, we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

Flash forward to 2023 and now, thanks in part to a loan from Community Ventures made possible by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Community Economic Development (CED) funding, the Woods are poised to take their burgeoning business to the next level.

The couple, high school sweethearts who both attended the University of Louisville and earned degrees in the healthcare field—Corey in nursing and Danielle in exercise physiology with a focus in nutrition—were introduced to kombucha and gifted a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast) by Corey’s kombucha-loving aunt.

“We became obsessed with gut health around 2013, when kombucha was trying to make its way into mainstream consciousness but was still kind of a niche product,” remembers Wood. “Kombucha is a super simple recipe of four ingredients—water, sugar, tea and the SCOBY. The bacteria and yeast work together in a culture through fermentation to reduce the sugar content and make a low-calorie, probiotic-rich, organic acid-rich beverage that you can flavor however you like. It comes out semi-sweet/semi-sour, and we flavor ours with juices like pineapple, lemonade, blueberry and grapefruit and herbs and spices like hibiscus and orange peel.”

Over the course of the seven years that Elixir Kombucha has called Chef Space home, the company has picked up steam in a big way, necessitating a move to a larger facility and the purchase of higher-capacity equipment to keep up with demand. In July of 2023, Elixir Kombucha will make the move to 1301 West Main St., not far from Chef Space.

“We are in almost 200 locations now and we are running at capacity on a two-week backorder,” the entrepreneur explained. “With the Community Ventures loan, we are going to be able to upgrade our kettle from the one we are using here at Chef Space to a 3-vessel system over there. We are upgrading our fermenters from these 125-gallon fermenters to 900-gallon fermenters, and we are going to upgrade our canning line as well. We can do two cans a minute here but in the new space, we’ll be able to do roughly 30 cans a minute.

“Tom (Murro, President of Chef Space) was a huge proponent for us and was integral in getting us in front of Shirie Hawkins at Community Ventures to get the loan processed. We are really grateful to him for his efforts.”

“Businesses like Elixir Kombucha, willing to locate in distressed communities and create jobs for the people who live there, is exactly why CED funding exists,” said Shirie Hawkins, President of Community Ventures’ Everything Equity. “We are thrilled to be a part of Elixir’s success story, and to work with entrepreneurs as caring and committed as the Woods are.”

For more information about Chef Space, contact Tom Murro at tom.murro@cvky.org. For information on lending to grow your business, contact Shirie Hawkins at shirie.hawkins@cvky.org or visit www.cvky.org.