Ever wonder what it’s like to start a business in the midst of a global pandemic? Joy-ist founder LeeAnn Neumann is learning exactly what that’s like, as she attempts to manage the difficulties associated with building a brand while we’re all forced to stay at home.
Like so many, Neumann eventually discovered that her true passion didn’t quite match up with her studies at Ball State University, where she graduated with concentrations in advertising and marketing. Neumann, the founder of Charleston’s new kombucha company Joy-ist, says she started brewing the fermented tea for her friends last year after learning the ropes from Sara Gail at RD Naturals, who gave her the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) she used to make her very first batch.
“I was getting really excited about the different flavor combinations I was coming up with,” shares Neumann. “My lemon, ginger, honey kombucha was one of the early favorites.” After over a year of fine-tuning her base recipe at her West Ashley home, the mother of two decided she wasn’t going to let the coronavirus stop her from turning her vision into a reality. “I launched Joy-ist on Fri. March 27. I had this goal to launch by April, but obviously none of this had happened yet when I set that target,” says Neumann. “It’s been hard and some people might call me crazy, but I just decided that this thing wasn’t going to stop me.”
Rather than debuting her six original kombucha flavors at a Women Entrepreneurs of Charleston event on April 2 like she had planned, Neumann now finds herself attempting to introduce the Lowcountry to her new creation by offering no-contact pick ups and deliveries all over Charleston. Neumann, who was first introduced to kombucha by a friend in Minnesota, feels that she’s developed a process that sets her product apart.
“To make kombucha, you brew sweet tea, let it cool, and then add it in with your starter tea and SCOBY,” Neumann explains. “After letting it sit for 5 to 10 days, it’s ready to drink, but I go into a second fermentation when I add organic juices.” Neumann only uses products that are 100 percent juice, allowing her to control sweetness and purity.
These juices are also infused with fresh herbs, a process Neumann came up with on her own. “Three of my kombucha flavors involve fresh herbs. I steep them with the sweet tea up front before adding the juice component later on. I’m essentially creating a tea blend with these herbs,” reveals Neumann. This process not only provides depth of flavor, but it also allows the kombucha to actually taste like the ingredients in the name. Her Pear Basil, Hibiscus Ginger Rose, and Lavender Lemonade kombuchas all utilize the herb-infusion technique.
Neumann says that her top seller so far has been the Cayenne Carrot kombucha, and she plans to use the sale of it and all her products to give back to the community supporting her. Joy-ist donates 10 percent of all profits to local charities, and this money is currently benefiting The Lowcountry Blessing Box Project, a group that strives to help those who are unable to put enough food on their tables. According to Neumann, she will add more beneficiaries as profits increase.
The Joy-ist brand isn’t solely focused on selling kombucha — the Indiana native also hopes to provide guidance for other food-driven moms with her lifestyle blog, which offers tips and do-it-yourself activities for the kids. “Especially right now, there are moms out there looking for resources with activities to do with their kids while they are stuck at home,” says Neumann. “I’m going to keep coming up with ideas to give people a break from what’s going on around us.” In a recent post, Neumann offers guidelines for parents who want to take professional-style photographs of their newborn babies while they are at home practicing social distancing.
Neumann knows it’s going to be an uphill battle in the coming weeks, but she’s still excited to see her dream become a reality. “There are ways you can still do what you love right now and share that with others — you just have to pivot. The future is uncertain but making kombucha is something I love doing.”
For more information on Neumann’s new business or to place an order for delivery or pick up, visit joy-ist.com.