Six-figure funding round spells expansion for kombucha maker

The kombucha company received a $350,000 capital raise for its expansion in Boulder. (Rowdy Mermaid)

Kombucha hasn’t lost its fizz.

Jamba Dunn, who founded Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha in 2013 in Boulder, recently raised $350,000 for his startup, according to SEC filings. He said the business making the popular fermented tea is using the funds to expand.

“We’ve already used some of (the funds) to expand production by 6,000 square feet in Boulder,” Dunn said. “We were growing so quickly that we outgrew our space … Now we are starting to get our feet under us, thanks to this initial capital round to move and buy equipment.”

Rowdy Mermaid now occupies a 12,000-square-foot facility at 2416 30th St. in Boulder and employs 15 people, but that could grow to 25 next year, Dunn said.

Before Rowdy Mermaid, Dunn, 51, worked for Rosetta Stone as a content designer and writer. He initially came up with the business name in a hot spring, when his wife asked what he wanted to name the startup. Just then, his daughter started splashing water and causing a ruckus, so Dunn asked her to calm down.

“She was being a very rowdy mermaid,” he said, and the name stuck. And his daughter inspired the business in more ways than one – Dunn originally was home-brewing beer as a hobby, but his daughter couldn’t drink it, so he switched to kombucha.

“She was a big kombucha fan,” he said. “She actually drove the taste. She didn’t want it too sweet or too sour.”

Founder Jamba Dunn with his wife, Erin Donnelly. (Rowdy Mermaid)

The business is trending toward $1.2 million in revenue this year, after making $600,000 in 2016. In June 2014, Rowdy Mermaid started bottling the product and moving into wholesale, using distributors such as United Natural Foods Inc., Loco Foods in Fort Collins, Boulder’s Full Spectrum and Western Distribution in Wyoming.

Dunn said the firm is in about 200 stores in 10 states, including Texas, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico and Montana. Customers can find Rowdy Mermaid kombucha in Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and Vitamin Cottage, Dunn said.

Dunn said the company’s kombucha is focused more on herbs than competitors like Los Angeles-based Health-Ade Kombucha and Portland-based Brew Dr. Kombucha.

“We are adding lots of fresh ingredients such as  herbs,” he said. “It changes the complexity of the flavor. It changes the benefits you get from the product.”

Rowdy Mermaid kombucha comes in six flavors, using ingredients like Tasmanian pepperberry, chrysanthemums and the Chaga mushroom – not to mention flavors straight from his 8-year-old daughter’s imagination.

“She created a kombucha flavor called Flower Grow,” he said. “It had everything from roses to cheese.” Spoiler alert: Dunn withheld the cheese.

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