Kombucha business wins top enterprise award

A business producing a probiotic-rich soft drink has won the University’s most prestigious prize – the Sir Peter Thompson Enterprise Award.

Zach Pinfold and Michael Collins

SPT Awards 2019 May 2019

The annual accolade is organised by the University’s business start-up service, Spark, and sponsored by Michael Collins, of Goldcrest Land plc, with the winner receiving £5,000.

Zach Pinfold, 27, a Master’s graduate in Product Design, spotted the gap in the UK market for an alternative to sugary soft drinks for those who prefer not drinking alcohol.

Kombucha is a fermented soft drink that uses tea as a key ingredient. It is rich in probiotics, has a depth of flavour and is naturally slightly sweet. Kombucha is popular in the US and Australia, and although you can find it in London, it’s not readily available across the UK.

Zach started producing his kombucha in December 2017, making his first sale at the Christmas Farmers’ Market in his home town of Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. Just 18 months later, his company, Sodada, has a product range that is stocked in 60 outlets, including independent cafes, health food shops, gym and fitness clubs, and even a Michelin-starred restaurant in Ilkley.

Zach said: “We’ve infused our products with locally-sourced flavours to give it more bite – a tart rhubarb, a fiery ginger and a delicate elderflower, and we’re about to launch two new flavours shortly, including one that’s hops-infused to give the flavour of beer.”

Sodada won a Great Taste Award in 2018 from the Guild of Fine Food, described as the ‘Oscars of the food and drink world’, which allows the company to display a Great Taste logo on its products.

Sodada is very much a family business, with the microbrewery built in an outhouse at Zach’s parents’ house and his whole family involved in helping run the business and support his sustainability aspirations.

Zach’s business model is structured to encourage customers to recycle bottles, which he then buys back from stockists. He said: “About 50% of our bottles are recycled now as more and more people are embracing the ethics of recycling. It’s good for the environment, our stockists like it because it brings customers back to the shops, and it also saves us money too – so everyone wins!

“Being chosen for the Sir Peter Thomson Award by an entrepreneur like Michael Collins, who has so much business acumen, gives me enormous confidence. The £5k prize is amazing, too, as it will help enormously with my growth plans.”

To date, Zach has won more than £10,000 in prizes through Spark, generously funded by University alumni and long-term partner Santander, allowing him to move away from leasing large pieces of equipment, such as filtering and bottle-capping machines, fridges and kegs.

Mr Collins, who sponsors the award, said: “The assessment day produced a very strong shortlist with excellent presentations. Zach’s presentation and business plan were outstanding and he was the clear winner.

“He is very clear on how he will grow his business – which is already successful; he is going to grow it by self-funding and is committed to building a sustainable business and has not made the strategic error of focusing on an exit – he is focusing instead on sustainability.” 

SPT Awards 2019 May 2019Michael Collins with Callum Isaac and Kyle Withington

Mr Collins also made a special award of £1,000 to graduates Kyle Withington and Callum Isaac for their video animation and design company, Knotwork Ltd.

It launched in November 2018, winning its first contract on day one and already has a 95% referral and repeat business rate from their clients across the UK, the Netherlands and the Isle of Man.

Commenting on Knotwork, Mr Collins said: “I awarded them a special prize because of their commitment to only work with companies ‘who do good’ and I think that should be encouraged. While I was very impressed with Knotwork’s passion to do good, they are commercial enough not to focus on the social sector but also seek to work with private companies who meet their high ethical standards and that is very impressive.”

Read more about Kyle and Callum’s award.

Concluding the event, Mr Collins added: “The work Leeds is doing with its young entrepreneurs must be encouraged because it’s an investment in future success, and I am constantly surprised that as an ‘old entrepreneur’ I am learning from these younger entrepreneurs – and that is very satisfying!”

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