Jamie Kirwin’s CPA training as an accountant came in handy to help build a beverage brand in a hot category (Courtesy of Plenty Hard Kombucha)
How did all this start?
My co-founder Valli Manickam invented Plenty Hard Kombucha. It’s her baby. A mutual friend had brought some early samples in homemade jars to a dinner party, and I tried it and I loved it. I met Valli and she was looking to raise money. I’d been in financial management for a decade so I helped her do that. Now we’re full-time business partners.
What brought you to your product?
I always thought I’d do something entrepreneurial; I had a million ideas, but never pulled the trigger. Plenty Hard Kombucha was a great opportunity for me to build something from the early days—a product I was falling in love with.
What are some challenges?
The regulatory environment is the biggest challenge about working with an alcohol product. Everything’s heavily regulated, which means being careful with sales and marketing, for example. My CPA training certainly helped navigate working with B.C.’s provincial liquor distributor. You need to have all your I’s dotted and T’s crossed.
How did you get into accounting?
I was initially going into marketing, [but] I was excelling in my accounting and finance courses. I had a great instructor that said I was going in the wrong direction and that I had a knack for this. I switched programs and never looked back. In my head, accounting and finance is the backbone of any business. I always wanted to understand it and then use those skills to drive a business forward.
Any challenges stemming from kombucha?
We live in this West Coast bubble thinking everybody knows what kombucha is. We need to explain it’s a gluten free, tea-based beverage. The other struggle is there’s a whole spectrum of flavour profiles out there, some kombuchas can be quite tart or astringent. The second fermentation we do converts the alcohol, removing that flavour and leaving a light, crisp, really refreshing taste.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
I love the variety of work. On a Monday I might be working on marketing. Tuesday I might be doing branding, social media or strategizing with different consultants we work with. Wednesday could be back to finance and accounting. It’s kind of all over the place.
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