KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 — Kombucha companies are a dime a dozen nowadays, judging by the options available along supermarket aisles.
Given how ubiquitous this fermented health beverage — made from sweetened tea and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) — is, it can be a daunting task to launch yet another kombucha product.
But how about a company that customises kombucha to fit your needs, brews it to order and then sells it on a subscription basis?
This is the premise of Finding Hylas, the brainchild of two brothers — Bryan Yee, 27, and Justin Yee, 25. Bryan is a chemical engineer by trade, whilst Justin is a physiotherapist. (They sometimes rope in their sister Ellisa, 23, a speech therapist who helps her brothers out in her free time.)
Finding Hylas didn’t start out as a kombucha brewing company, much less one with a subscription model. Justin shares, "Our initial Idea for our company was to provide customer service, marketing and logistics solutions to vendors who were selling out of their own homes during the MCO lockdown.”
Finding Hylas kombuchas are flavoured with real fruits and spices.
The brothers also wanted to lead by example by selling a product they made themselves. Finding Hylas kombuchas are made with 100 per cent organic cane sugar as feed for the culture, and flavoured with real fruits and spices.
They share, "The reason we picked kombucha was because our mum loved making kombucha, and we loved drinking it. She had very strict rules around making the perfect brew. Being curious boys, we deviated a few times, but quickly found out the hard way why she had those rules.”
However, that initial plan to act as a platform did not quite work out as anticipated. Bryan recalls, "We worked really hard at the time to sign home sellers up to our platform, and really focused our business on making them successful. Which made it worse when the business didn’t get the traction we wanted it to.”
Undeterred, the entrepreneurial siblings saw that experience as a teaching opportunity. They decided to pivot and focus solely on the one product that they were making and selling themselves — subscription kombucha.
Beyond this intriguing subscription model, the business also attracts curious customers by virtue of its name.
Brothers Bryan Yee (left) and Justin Yee (right) giving a health talk about kombucha.
The brothers explain, "Hylas was a Greek mythological character, who was obsessed with finding a cure to life’s one guarantee, death. So he set out on a journey to find a mystical water that would give him eternal health. However, upon finding that water, he was enthused by the water nymphs, drowned and was never found.”
They reasoned that everyone is like Hylas, in that we are each on our own personal journey to find meaning in health, wealth, and relationships.
Finding Hylas has many variations of blends, to cater to all the needs of each customer. Justin says, "Each individual has different health needs, different health conditions, and so we customise each bottle accordingly.”
Some of these "health goals” include Keto Friendly, Low Glycemic Index, Detoxing, Improving Immune System, Diabetic, and others.
Justin adds, "We meet these needs by using custom ingredients such as curcumin turmeric, ginger, raspberry, blueberry, spirulina, lemon, and many more. We often take suggestions from our subscribers too!”
Bottled kombucha ready to be delivered to subscribers.
Given the plethora of companies offering kombucha in the market nowadays, how does Finding Hylas stand out from the pack? Bryan says, "What really differentiates us is our commitment to working with each subscriber personally, developing the tools and processes that enable that.”
Currently, Finding Hylas has two plans for kombucha subscription: 1 litre per week and 500 milliliters per week. The 1 litre per week plan costs RM119 per month, that comes up to RM29.75 per litre, whereas the 500 milliliters plan costs RM79 per month or up to RM19.75 per 500 milliliters.
Bryan explains, "We send you a health quiz when you subscribe to help us understand your health needs and preferences. Once that is done, we start your personalised brew. When the kombucha is done, we deliver it straight to your door.”
Getting logistics right is crucial for an online business, he adds. "This is how we are able to handle our own delivery now to allow flexibility for our subscribers, as well as ensure the kombucha is delivered fresh!”
To get more people to experience their kombucha, the pair relied heavily on word of mouth and participating in events when they started.
Reaching out to prospective customers by participating in events.
Justin says, "Customers tend to stay once they have tried it, usually because of the health benefits that they experience or simply because it tastes really good. We have subscribers who previously had chronic bloating, say that their stomach bloating problem was solved within a few weeks.”
Finding Hylas will be launching new 250 milliliters bottles that will only be available in limited locations and channels.
Bryan says, "So be on the lookout for them if you happen to be in one of those few gyms or spas. We hope that will make our product more accessible and allow more people to try our kombucha. We will launch with two flavours: Finding Focus (our isotonic kombucha), and Finding Digestion (for bloating and indigestion).”
Staying agile and innovative, the team is looking into making custom blends for weddings and other small scale events. Justin adds, "We are also exploring various projects collaborating with local Malaysian artists.”
Beyond their subscription model, Finding Hylas ultimately aims to carve out a niche in the kombucha market through their approach and messaging. The brothers say, "We hope our kombucha can be that mystical water in your journey towards better health, but we hope people who connect with the brand find meaning even beyond that.”
New year, new packaging and brand design.
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