Holos is a gutsy boutique kombucha company created out of the five founders’ passion for health and wellbeing plus the dream of ending modern-day slavery. It’s made in their kombucha distillery on a beautiful estate in rolling Sussex countryside.

But how have they been affected by the pandemic? And what are their lockdown life lessons?

How have they pivoted their business during this new normal? We Zoomed with two of the founders, Tom Partridge and Christine Gilland Robinson to find out.

Why HOLOS? What does the word mean?

CGR: HOLOS means ‘whole’ and ‘complete’, and we really felt like that spoke to the holistic purpose of the business – to create products that would benefit the body, but also that would do good in our world.

How does kombucha work on the gut?

TP: As a fermented tea-based product, kombucha is packed full of naturally-occurring good bacteria, organic acids, antioxidants and enzymes, making it a refreshing, low-sugar alternative to soft drinks and alcohol.

Although few in depth scientific studies have been undertaken, authentically made Kombucha tea is believed to have a detoxifying effect on the body, helping to boost the immune system and protect against infective disorders.

Kombucha is everywhere now- what makes yours different?

CGR: We focus upon small-batch brewing techniques and not adding in artificial flavours or additional sweeteners.

We also don’t pasteurise, which helps to retain as many of the benefits of kombucha as possible.

But our biggest point of difference is our social purpose – we have a social mission of supporting survivors of human trafficking through training and employment opportunities, and this makes us the only socially purposeful kombucha company in the UK.

You work as a collaboration of 5 founders which is exciting and unique. How does this work?

TP: My background is off shore wind energy and business and project management. Working as a collaboration has many benefits, allowing the team to adjust to the needs of the business and vice versa. I work in the business full time while the other founders working part time. We come together for major projects and events.

CGR: I was in marketing for non-profits and Tom’s wife Naomi were friends in church. We were talking about women who were being trafficked and we formed a group and a business to resolve this. Tom went part-time to explore what Holos might be and what it might look like.

Eventually we realised it couldn’t be an equal share split so Tom has a majority share holding because he quit his job. We wrote out at the start our vision and who would do what. It’s been nice as a team work and problem solve together. 5 views, backgrounds and mindsets have helped us tackle issues more creatively.

How has business been affected by the pandemic?

CGR: We have been affected, like so many businesses in the hospitality supply chain, by the closure of restaurants, cafes and pubs all around the country. A large number of our stockists have been closed over the last few months.

However, some of our biggest customers are in the online space and they have been incredibly busy during this period, so that’s definitely off-set some of the loss of income we’ve sustained.

The other big change for us during the pandemic was that it gave us the time and incentive to pivot to online deliveries ourselves, and so we launched our kombucha subscription boxes. These have proven really popular with our customers, and really helped us to weather the storm.

Tell us about the anti-trafficking side of the business.

CGR: HOLOS started with three women – Naomi, Megan and myself – who all worked or volunteered within the anti-trafficking sector in the UK. Early on we identified in our work with survivors the need for meaningful employment, which helps build confidence and self-worth, as well as economic independence; all of these are key factors in helping break the cycle of re-trafficking.

We started dreaming about building a business that aligned both profit and purpose. Tom and Joseph helped us build and refine the vision, and the five of us launched HOLOS in 2018 with social purpose at our core.

Our social mission is to create training and employment opportunities for survivors of trafficking. We have begun this process by launching seasonal work placements during the summer (sadly our placements this summer have been deferred due to COVID). The vision is that these placements would not only help build confidence and employability skills for survivors, but that they would also help us recruit survivors as longer-term employees during the business, as we grow.

We have also set aside a portion of our shares as founders (25% at the outset), to support anti-trafficking programmes and purposes. We’ll be establishing a charitable foundation to facilitate the distribution of these funds.

Do you live a kombucha lifestyle? Are you healthy? How do you both unwind?

TP: Apart from drinking copious amounts of kombucha Naomi (my wife) and I mainly eat a plant based diet. Having recently moved from London to West Sussex we are really enjoying the countryside and unwind by going on long walks. I am very practical and enjoy DIY projects.

CGR: My husband and I both try hard to stay healthy, although at the moment I’m not drinking too much kombucha because I’m heavily pregnant (it’s an unpasteurised product, so I drink cautiously)!

We cook a lot at home, and try to make most of our meals each week either plant-based or fish-based.

I also am a big advocate of acupuncture, which really helps me to unwind and has done wonders for my stress levels! I’ve really missed my acupuncture sessions during lockdown!

What are both your top three lockdown life lessons?

CGR: I’d say:

1) Some of my most precious memories from this year so far have been going on long walks with my husband, or reading books together in the garden. Spending those quiet moments together was worth more than lots of fun date nights out (although we’re looking forward to those again too!). I think I’m becoming a quality time person!!

2) Focus on doing one thing at a time, and doing it well.

3) The old adage of ‘when one door closes, another opens’ is actually really true! There’s always a way to pivot, be creative, and try new solutions – even when things look bleak.

TP:  I have become a dad during lockdown so that has been a major lesson in itself, it is way more fun than I expected!

Lockdown has taught me to remain open and flexible when planning both in terms of the business and in my personal life.

The importance of family, health and mental wellbeing and being thankful each day for what we have.

Where do you dream of travelling?

CGR: I’m currently dreaming of heading back to my home country, Australia, to see family and friends! I’ve missed them so much, and still not sure when I’m going to be able to get back to see them. Closer to home, I am obsessed with Italy and would holiday there again in a heartbeat – we were in Sicily in January this year, and had the best time.

What makes you glow? Please name your favourite books, apps, things to do and name check brands so we can affiliate link.

CGR:  I love the Bonberi website, which is full of gorgeous plant-based recipes, interviews and advice. Founder Nicole Beri’s Instagram is really inspirational, as well. I’d love to visit the Bonberi Mart in NYC one day!!

I listen to the Power Hour podcast – it’s a podcast all about pursuing your passions and achieving success. Adrienne Herbert is so inspiring, and a great interviewer. I’m also a massive fan of Brene Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us.

My faith is super-important to me, and I’ve found the Lectio365 app to be a really grounding and helpful way to start the morning.

Glowcation is all about making living the vegan and plant-based life quick and easy. Which are your favourite places to eat when lockdown lifts?

CGR:  Amrutha Lounge in Earlsfield makes amazing plant-based food and the atmosphere is so friendly and welcoming (and we’re not the only ones to think so; they’ve previously been voted London’s No.1 vegan restaurant on Trip Advisor!).

• Closer to our West Sussex brewery, our friends at The Roundhill Pub in Brighton make gorgeous vegan food and their pub has lovely, cosy vibes.

•  Up north, Prashad is one of my absolute favourite restaurants for the most gorgeous plant-based Indian food. They also have two wonderful cookbooks, for those who can’t get up to Bradford easily!

• For cooking at home, we’re trying to move toward more of a zero-waste lifestyle: the Useless website and Eco Thrifty Living have great directors of zero-waste stores where you can pick up all your cooking and household essentials.

What is your top tip for starting a plant-based or vegan business during a pandemic?

TP: During this challenging time if I were starting a new business I would focus on a product selling direct to consumers online.

This would help protect the business from the ups and down of lockdown.

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