PYL Series: Forage Kombucha

by: Hedi Moussavi, Partner at Forage Kombucha

I’m huffing and puffing, out of breath after a long run and outdoor workout at UW-Madison’s Marching Band Practice Field.  I look down at my little Jack Russell Terrier, Junior, to acknowledge the end of the workout and run.  “That’s a Good Boy!” I say, as he looks up at me, smiling and panting while we walk past the sail boat docks at the UW Memorial Union Terrace (aka the Terrace).  It was summertime vibes in Madison; perfect afternoon weather, blue skies, warm sunshine and a mild summer breeze cooling the sweat off my face. It felt like heaven on Earth that day. 

If you’re familiar with UW-Madison, then you’ll know that the Terrace was undoubtedly bumpin’.   College students drinking brews on the lake, the infamous Terrace chairs everywhere, sailboats off in the distance and the sounds of laughter surround the scene as I take a deep breath to soak it all up.  “Finally!” I think to myself, as the long winter ended and summer began (mother nature seems to forget autumn and spring from time to time in the Great North). Junior and I continue walking towards the heart of the Terrace, and we post up near the water fountain to cool off and hydrate.

Staring off into the distance, and in my own world, I snap out of it as someone unexpectedly taps me on my shoulder.  It was a guy I barely knew at that time, Doug. 

Doug: “HEDI! What’s up man?”
Me: “What’s up? How have you been?”
Doug: “Just got cleared to workout after my shoulder surgery… can I workout with you sometime?”
Me: “You think you can keep up with me?!”  Super bro comment, I know.
Doug: “I’ll try my hardest.” 

That hit me. That was the perfect response.  One of the core values that I respect more than anything. “I’ll try my hardest” is an acknowledgment that I may not be perfect, but I will give it my all, until my last breath.  So how could I possibly say “No” to Doug?

Doug with Me and my late dog Junior

The Origin of Forage

Doug and Henry were recent graduates of UW-Madison. After leaving Madison for a few years, the two best buds came back to their alma mater to open up a cool restaurant called Roast Public House in the heart of State St. on UW-Madison’s campus.  I was a graduate student when I met Doug and Henry, and lived just steps away from their new restaurant.  We spent the summer working out at the UW Marching Band Practice field, and during that time we sweat together, we laughed together, we pushed each other to be our very best, and through that hard work and perseverance, we developed a close bond. 

Not long before we met, we were junk food eaters, we were soda drinkers, we drank our fair share of alcohol, we were completely oblivious to the power of healthy food consumption and its short-term and long-term benefits.   Information on food and health was not as pervasive during our childhood, nor was it readily accessible for our parents as it is in today’s high-tech information sharing world.  As we got a little older, our bodies weren’t recovering as fast as before.  Compound that with a tough week of work and school, the stresses of daily life, a strict workout routine, and we found ourselves lethargic and unmotivated.  So we focused on natural foods that were dense in nutrients, and witnessed the immediate positive impact food had on our physical and mental health. 

After completing my dissertation, I moved to Minneapolis for work.  Doug and Henry continued their partnership by opening Forage Kitchen, the first fast-casual, health conscious restaurant in Madison, WI.  The main goal of Forage Kitchen is to provide healthy, local, mostly organic, affordable and delicious salads to the community.  The menu is based on the foods that we were already making at home, so it was important for Doug and Henry to share with others.  After two years of establishing Forage Kitchen as a staple in the Madison Community, Doug and Henry decided that they wanted to do more with Forage.  They wanted to make a large-scale change and provide healthy options to a wider audience! 

Doug and Henry at Forage Kitchen

Doug and Henry turned to kombucha due to their personal love for the product and the amazing experiences they had with it.  They began drinking the beverage regularly as a soda substitute because of the taste, the effervescence and purported positive health impacts. They desired to create a Kombucha that’s more affordable and accessible, but never sacrifice quality.  They wanted their kombucha to be incredibly convenient, sustainable and always ethical.  They wanted kombucha in a can – making it one of the first canned kombuchas on the market.

When Doug and Henry were in the process of developing the Forage Kombucha business plan, they reached out and asked me to join the team. They have an inherent trust and belief in me, we share the same values, and we desire to make a change in the current food and beverage world.

Doug and Henry: “Let’s blow this thing up!”
Me: “Done.”

It was as easy as that. I didn’t have to think twice. To have the opportunity to own my destiny, to team up with Doug and Henry (two incredible people with the best of intentions), and being naturally aligned in the Forage vision – it was a no brainer.   

One lesson that I learned from my friendship with Doug and Henry is to have an open heart, to be present and capture the small moments.  In these moments allow yourself the space and freedom to grow, because change is the only constant. If you embrace change and interruptions in your life, it might change your life trajectory for the better, just as it did mine.  I’m forever grateful that Doug interrupted me that beautiful day, because little did I know at that time, that the guy I barely knew, would soon become my brother.  Not even a full five years later, Henry, Doug and I seek to accomplish so much with Forage as we push for a healthier and more accepting world. The future is unpredictable, but we can change, and we can improve if we try our hardest to pursue our legend.

Hedi is a Partner at Forage Kombucha and enjoys spending his free time reading, writing, working out in the sun, meditating, and spending time with his family, friends and two dogs.

[The PYL Series highlights individuals that don’t just tolerate discomfort to purse their legend, they anticipate and embrace it. Knowing what you want, and knowing that you’ll do anything and overcome all obstacles to achieve it is not easy, but it is the only way to reach your own legend. Pursue it vigorously, and the universe will conspire to help you achieve yours too.]

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