inov8 Seminar Says: Drink Your Way to Health

Nadav Soroker, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Santa Rosa Junior College hosted local alternative beverage entrepreneurs for the first in a series of panels on innovation called inov8. CEOs from Revive Kombucha, Guayaki Yerba Mate and Traditional Medicinals came to Newman Auditorium to discuss founding and running small businesses based on sustainability.

SRJC president Dr. Frank Chong opened the evening and introduced Roy Gattinella, the man who made inov8 happen with help from the SRJC Foundation. Gatinella worked hard to bring this event to fruition, believing it has a valuable place here at SRJC. “Eighty-four percent of businesses in Sonoma County are very, very small. Entrepreneurial size. Nine employees or less.” Gatinella said.

The moderator for the event, SRJC alumni and Marketing Director for Summit State Bank Elaina Hunt, took the podium and presented the three speakers: CEO and Chairman of the Gourd of Guayaki Chris Mann, CEO of Traditional Medicinals Blair Kellison and Sean Lovett, founder of Revive Kombucha.

Each panelist was given a bit of time to introduce himself and his company to the crowd. Each story demonstrated the variety of innovative ways the companies differentiate themselves in the crowded modern beverage market, from Guayaki’s store displays showing consumers exactly how many square feet of forest is reclaimed and trees are planted with purchases of its products, to Revive Kombucha’s bottle reusing process that directly recycles up to 79 percent of growlers that are returned.

Hunt guided the panelists in a discussion about several topics such as the decisions they each made to commit to small start-up businesses and the stress and fears associated with such ventures. They all shared short anecdotes, advice, tips and motivations.

“I felt that I could put myself into it, I could take any risk I want. It was my company, no one was gonna tell me if I could do it one way or the other way,” Lovett said.

Before the event wrapped up, the audience was given a chance to ask a few questions of the panelists. Audience members took the opportunity to get specifics about difficulties that the alternative companies had in dealing with big business and the Food and Drug Administration.

Afterwards, the crowd was treated to free samples of each company’s products as well as chances to meet and ask more direct questions of the panelists.

After this event the foundation will start working to prepare the next panel in the series. Gattinella aims to have two to three such panels each year, drawing local innovators from Sonoma County and the greater San Francisco Bay Area.