071 How a Kombucha-Brewing Hobby Turned into Selling at 2,000 Stores!

A conversation with one of Canada's most popular Kombucha Brands, Tonica Kombucha!

Zoey Shamai is the founder and president at Tonica Kombucha, a Canadian beverage company.

Zoey’s entrepreneurial journey began in early childhood witnessing her mother, a health entrepreneur, pioneer a line of hemp and chia food products. While becoming a certified yoga instructor, Zoey was introduced to kombucha tea. Moved by the immediate effect it had on her digestion, Zoey became an avid kombucha brewer and began to share her fermented beverage with her community.

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At a time when there were no other kombucha brands on the market in Canada, she became the first commercial kombucha brewer in Toronto. Although Tonica started as a love hobby, the overwhelming response Zoey got from consumers grateful for the digestive aid and skin cleansing from her fermented tea made it clear - this was just the beginning. And Tonica Kombucha was borne.

By 2011, Zoey had grown Tonica Kombucha to be sold in over 100 retail stores across Canada. In 2012 Zoey appeared on CBC’s Dragons’ Den with a winning pitch. Her appearance garnered international attention and though she declined the deal with the dragons off-air, the appearance opened doors to mainstream retailers. In 2016, Dragons’ Den featured Zoey again in a Success Story follow-up episode where they profiled Tonica’s production and filmed Zoey teaching a yoga class.

Today, Tonica continues to produce exceptionally authentic kombucha in their 12,000+ sq ft facility and is one of the only Canadian brands that remains brewed in small batches. Tonica is now sold in over 2000 stores across Canada including Whole Foods, Shoppers Drug Mart, Metro, and Loblaws. Zoey has been featured in several publications, including Canadian Business Executive, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Canadian Women in Food and Cityline.

In this episode we chat about…

  • How the idea to start Tonica Kombucha turned into reality

  • We talk about her trip to Costa Rica & the impact it had on her launching her business

  • Zoey shares where she learned the skills necessary to launch and scale her business

  • How she figured things out one step at a time, as a pioneer in the kombucha industry

  • The massive growth of her company in the past decade

  • The art of ASKING for what you want

  • Tips for being great at selling

  • How she grew her team

  • Her experience going on CBC’s Dragon’s Den to give her pitch

  • & so much more



Kelsey Reidl