Marketing professional Becca Schepps created Mortal Kombucha as a gag.

Boulder firm brews up ‘90s nostalgia to make kombucha fun, accessible

BOULDER — “My foray into the natural foods space was a complete accident,” Mortal Kombucha founder and CEO Becca Schepps said with a chuckle.

The New Jersey native and former advertising copywriter and creative director had moved to Boulder from New York a few years prior to work for the high-profile local agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

Mortal Kombucha

“I was just a little burnt out” working on ad campaigns for natural and organic product brands, she said, and decided to blow off steam by creating a parody website advertising a kombucha company inspired by the classic 1990s video game series Mortal Kombat. 

“It was very violent and very funny,” she said of the original Mortal Kombucha concept. “… I just kept talking about it like it was real, so my husband finally just said, ‘Well, why don’t you make it?”

The branding was the easy part.

“I definitely have a ‘90s nostalgia vibe,” Schepp said. “When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Van’s [shoes] and Santa Cruz Skateboards — that whole world.”

She combined the Mortal Kombat name pun with the neon hues and tongue-in-cheek aggression of California skate culture to create Mortal Kombucha’s signature aesthetic, then she used her connections from her advertising career to source bottles and labels.

Still, she had no idea how to make kombucha. 

On a visit to Barnes & Noble in Boulder she picked up a book on kombucha brewing, devoured it, then put the lessons she learned to use and brewed her first batch.

“We made our first couple of batches, and they actually tasted good,” she said with surprise. 

It turns out, brewing kombucha is “way easier than [making] beer or sourdough bread,” Schepp said. 

Four years later, Mortal Kombucha is on the shelves of hundreds of natural grocers and retailers in 12 states and available to be shipped directly to customers in 48 states. Schepp has also since expanded the product offering to include a line of hard kombuchas. 

“When I told my friends back in Brooklyn that I started a kombucha company, they said, ‘Oh, you’ve gotten so Boulder!’” Schepp said.

But becoming “so Boulder” isn’t just a punchline for jokes about the city’s reputation as a hippy dippy hub for natural products. 

“Being in Boulder has made figuring out how to be a food company very easy,” Schepp said. “There are examples everywhere, and working at an ad agency you’re in touch with so many founders and people who have done small scale manufacturing.”

The presence of local organizations such as Naturally Boulder, an industry trade group, “helps in that any question I have, I can probably find an answer to,” she said.

Local competition has “forced us to pay a lot of attention to growing within our region and figuring out when to make your mark locally versus when you leave your backyard,” Schepp said.

In an effort to meet a growing demand, both for Mortal Kombucha’s products and for Schepp’s time as the executive of an expanding company, the company brought on a partner last year to help with operations and scaling.

In October, Mortal Kombucha broke into the Southern California market, one of the most important for natural product makers. The firm plans to expand the sales of its hard kombucha beyond Colorado in 2021. 

As the company grows, Mortal Kombucha’s focus, Schepp said, will remain on “making a beverage that’s healthy and dialing up the fun for the branding.”

© 2021 BizWest Media LLC

BOULDER — “My foray into the natural foods space was a complete accident,” Mortal Kombucha founder and CEO Becca Schepps said with a chuckle.

The New Jersey native and former advertising copywriter and creative director had moved to Boulder from New York a few years prior to work for the high-profile local agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

Mortal Kombucha

“I was just a little burnt out” working on ad campaigns for natural and organic product brands, she said, and decided to blow off steam by creating a parody website advertising a kombucha company inspired by the classic 1990s video game series Mortal Kombat. 

“It was very violent and very funny,” she said of the original Mortal Kombucha concept. “… I just kept talking about it like it was real, so my husband finally just said, ‘Well, why don’t you make it?”

The branding was the easy part.

“I definitely have a ‘90s nostalgia vibe,” Schepp said. “When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Van’s [shoes] and Santa Cruz Skateboards — that whole world.”

She combined the Mortal Kombat name pun with the neon hues and tongue-in-cheek aggression of California skate culture to create Mortal Kombucha’s signature aesthetic, then she used her connections from her advertising career to source bottles and labels.

Still, she had no idea how to make kombucha. 

On a visit to Barnes & Noble in Boulder she picked up a…