The three founders of Maryland-based Wild Kombucha: Adam Bufano (left) Sid Sharma (middle) Sergio Malarin ‘13 (right) (Courtesy of Wild Kombucha)

By Ellie Geraghty

Before Co-Founder Sergio Malarin ’13 was selling Wild Kombucha in over 900 stores across 9 states, he and his two friends and co-founders, Adam Bufano and Sid Sharma were making kombucha out of the side of a juice shop in Baltimore. That juice shop was where Malarin’s passion for healthy beverages and a healthy community brought to life Wild Kombucha. Grab yourself a Tart Ginger Cherry, Elderberry or even Watermelon Hops Kombucha and read on to learn about the Terp mastermind behind the simple and honest Wild Kombucha company.

What is your Fearless Idea?

Starting a beverage manufacturing business in Baltimore City, with a focus on kombucha and other healthy drinks as a vehicle for positive change within our community.

Describe your startup's mission and why you launched it in 100 words or less.

Our mission is to make affordable and approachable beverages for our community to enjoy. We believe that everyone should be able to experience the benefits of kombucha and have access to other healthy options. For us, having a healthy community goes beyond just people. It extends to the environment we occupy and the creatures we share it with. Wild Kombucha is a proud supporter of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s efforts to protect the watershed and the various forms of life it supports.

How do you define success or determine the impact of your venture?

Our success is tied to the success and health of our community at large. Whether it comes through our donation-based partnerships with local organization such as Living Classrooms and The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, or through our efforts to combat food deserts in Baltimore City by opening a tap room in the Forest Park neighborhood, for me, if we are able to leave our community a better place than we found it, that means we were successful in our original goals.

What is the biggest problem or challenge you have had to overcome with your venture?

Funding! We started a food manufacturing business with a budget of less than $10k. We were 24 years old with few years of credit history and zero business experience, so banks were unwilling to lend us money. We resorted to finding local business competitions, and won first prize ($45,000) at the Shore Hatchery Business Competition at Salisbury University, which allowed us to expand to a bigger brewery and continue to grow.

What is the best piece of advice you've received?

A business magnifies the strengths and weaknesses of its founder(s). Make time for honest introspection, it goes a long way in protecting your business from your personal shortcomings, and can help you play to your strengths. Lastly, be ultra conservative in your financial projections, and make sure there is always a clear path to profitability.

What is one piece of advice you want to give to fellow Terps about launching a venture?

Never stop finding creative solutions to your problems, and make sure your math checks out before you dive in!

What is one book you're reading or a podcast you're listening to right now? 

I just finished reading “Natural Born Heroes” by Christopher McDougall, and I'm always listening to “Planet Money,” “Freakonomics,” “How I Built This” and “Taste Radio” podcasts.

What do you do in your free time?

I love hiking, archery, camping, snowboarding and travelling (especially to see my family in Peru!). I also enjoy reading about a number of different topics, watching movies and spending time with my amazing wife and our dog, Runa.

What is your favorite alumni event or experience?

All of the events arranged by the Terp Entrepreneurship Network have been fantastic!

As a student, what was one of your favorite memories or spots on campus?

I am pretty picky about what I eat, so the Maryland Food Collective in the STAMP Student Union was by far my favorite place on campus. I ate lunch there nearly every day, and was very sad to hear that they closed down.

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