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Earlsfield Talks: to HOLOS

We are so pleased to have found your Kombucha, please can you tell us more about how you started?

The business started with Megan, Naomi and myself (Christine). We were all either working or volunteering in the anti-trafficking sector here in London, and we saw the incredible lack of opportunities that were available for the women we were working with. We would help build up their confidence, sharpen up their CV’s, and then we were trying to get them work experience and opportunities, and it was just so, so hard. We had this lightbulb moment where we realised that we wanted to create something that would offer employment opportunities to survivors.

To start with, we were brainstorming so many different business ideas! At one point, we even thought about making dog food! But kombucha was up there almost from the very beginning; Megan was already brewing her own kombucha at home, as she’d found it so helpful for her gut health - and we knew from looking at the health & wellbeing space overseas that kombucha was going to be coming to London, and that when it did, it would be HUGE. It just seemed right.

Since those original conversations and brainstorming sessions, the team has grown to include our husbands! HOLOS is now led by Tom, who also brews our kombucha full-time, and he’s helped by my husband Ben and Megan’s husband Joseph, who also takes most of our gorgeous photos!

Why did you choose to set up in Earlsfield?

Our brewer is a Southfields local and we wanted to stay close by, in south London. We came across the wonderful Riverside Business Centre, which is just this hub of entrepreneurial activity here in Earlsfield, and home to some amazing businesses and makers. It just seemed like a natural fit.

What have been your best moments?

A real highlight for us recently was when we were chosen as the kombucha to be stocked at Gwyneth Paltrow’s first London In goop Health summit last month. We couldn’t believe that they’d chosen us, this tiny little kombucha company, to sit alongside these other amazing brands at the summit. From what we hear, it was a massive hit with the guests!

…and biggest challenges?

Starting a business is such a challenge, and I think we were all blissfully unaware of quite how tough it would be at times! Because we handmake the entire product at our microbrewery at the moment, there’s this extra complexity and time-intensity that we constantly need to be aware of, and balance. Of course, that attention to detail also makes the kombucha taste amazing, and the result is a really artisanal product which we’re so proud of. But that commitment to excellence hasn’t always made our lives easy!

What has HOLOS got in store for the next 12 months?

This summer, we are running our very first summer jobs programme for survivors of human trafficking. This is a HUGE milestone for us, and one that we’re so proud to be able to implement at this early stage in our business. We have two survivors of trafficking who are working with us over the summer, receiving bespoke training and support, and a London living wage.

In the next 12 months, we hope to run more of these kind of programmes for survivors, as well as continue to offer kombucha at a wider range of natural retailers and stockists in London. We are also growing our stockist base in Brighton, which is hugely exciting.

What advice would you give other businesses setting up in the area?

There’s nothing like the support and enthusiasm that you get from the local community. For us, establishing ourselves in Earlsfield (we have a number of amazing stockists here) was really key. We wanted to lay the foundations of what we did - our ethos, our customer service, our relational approach to what we do - right here in our own backyard.

What advice would you give your younger self?

It’s easy to think that everyone else has it all figured out - but I’m beginning to realise that actually, we’re all just muddling along, trying to do our best and there’s an element of risk and figuring it all out as you go along in life - and in startups! Sometimes the best things come out of that process.