From spite to success

Becca Schepps is on a roll with Mortal Kombucha


It was Type 1 diabetes that turned Becca Schepps on to kombucha. And it was a joke that turned Schepps on to making kombucha.

“I just had this moment where I was just like: I’m going to make aggressive kombucha,” Schepps says. “I’m going to make Monster, you know, Red Bull, Rockstar—that version of kombucha.”

This was back in December 2017, and Schepps was working as a creative director in advertising. She had been in advertising for over a decade and seen it all, including the “made with 100 percent purified love” on an ingredients label. She knew if you wanted to sell a product, you had to have a hook.

“I turned to my creative partner at the time, being like: ‘Oh, what if it was like Mortal Kombucha? Finish it!’ Schepps continues, dropping her voice an octave to deliver the video game line. “And I remember actually standing in line at a cafe in Boulder, the Innisfree one up on The Hill, and she was just like: ‘You’ve lost your mind.’”

But the website was available. So was the Instagram handle. Schepps snapped up both.

“You know, the joke just kept going for the next week where anytime I had downtime, I was just making up flavors or making this website, and then I turned it live,” she says. “There was no product at first. It was just like, kind of a spite company, I guess.”

And now Schepps’ spite company can be found in stores all around Colorado, the Pacific Northwest, and Southern California, with Austin, Texas, on the horizon. Not bad for something that started as a joke.

But before all that, Schepps had to learn how to make kombucha.

“I remember coming home from the freelance job I was on, and I had seven orders and no idea how to make kombucha,” she recalls.

So she dropped by Boulder Fermentation Supply and introduced herself.

“‘Hi, my name is Becca. I have a kombucha company, and I need to learn how to make kombucha. Can you help me?’” Schepps recounts. “They looked at me like I was crazy. 

“They told me some books to get, and I left with like a jar and some temperature strips,” Schepps continues. Next stop, Natural Groceries for tea and fruit. Then “went home and read a book and made kombucha.”

That’s how the first seven orders started.

“The first page of the book was like: ‘Kombucha takes about three weeks to make.’ So I emailed the seven orders and was like: ‘It will be ready in three weeks.’ Not thinking like anything could go wrong.”

Why would she? Schepps was on a roll. Schepps started shipping out her kombucha. She caught some momentum and moved her operation to a commercial kitchen in Westminster in 2018. Then Whole Foods came calling, and Schepps moved Mortal Kombucha again to a larger scale facility in Longmont to supply 34 Whole Foods stores in Colorado and five surrounding states. That happened in May 2019. That winter, Schepps was in talks with other large outlets, and as of Oct. 31, 2021, Mortal Kombucha is on shelves in 50 King Soopers around Colorado.

“That was supposed to happen in 2020,” Schepps says with a laugh. “We’re just a little late.”

Like everyone else, COVID brought Mortal Kombucha to a halt. But it also allowed Schepps to catch her breath and “take that time to make really good decisions moving forward. I think that really set up a lot of success for 2021.”

“We were growing so fast,” she says. “There was no way to figure out, like, how do we fund the growth? What do we do? Because we just had to keep making [the kombucha]. We were a producer and not like a brand.”

And Schepps and her small team were doing it all by hand, including twisting hundreds of plastic caps on bottles every day.

So Schepps took the virus-imposed pause to meditate on what needed to happen with Mortal Kombucha to make it successful, which included a move to their current facility in Gypsum, the hiring of an operator, and a vice president of sales to “just charged through the back half of 2020.”

“Now that we had no production hiccups—because we were being made by a very big brand [Rocky Mountain Cultures]—we had a better quality product,” Schepps says. “It supercharged 2021.”

But that’s only half the story. Schepps’ Mortal Kombucha has paved the way for Mortal XXX, a line of hard kombuchas designed to buck the flimsy hard kombucha trend. More on that in two weeks.

Flavors to fight death

Currently, you can find eight flavors of Mortal Kombucha around town in 16-ounce glass bottles. In alphabetical order:

Apearantly It’s Love—Ginger, pear, and rose

Black Magic—Activated charcoal, lemon, and maple

Black Sage—Blackberry, ginger, and sage

Chill Flower—Florals, mint, and rose

Dem Apples—Apples and cinnamon

Marg Simpson—Lime and margarita

Power Melon—Mint and watermelon

Sour Ginger—Ginger and lemon