A kombucha-brewing couple from Kenai walked away with an extra $4,000 for their business Friday night after being declared the winners of the first Spark Soldotna competition.
Devon and Brian Gonzalez, owners of Kenai Kombucha, were one of five local business owners that pitched their ideas for expansion to a panel of judges at the Catch Restaurant with the hopes of receiving a scholarship from the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce worth $4,000. Modeled after the TV show “Shark Tank,” the competition gave each business owner five minutes to make their case, and the judges had five minutes to ask questions of the entrepreneurs before scoring them and determining a winner.
“We’re so excited,” Devon Gonzalez said after being declared the winner. Gonzales said during her presentation that the money would be used primarily to expand their production capacity with a bigger fermenter. The Kenai Kombucha taproom opened in mid-October, but the two were already supplying their product to several other local businesses, including Kenai River Brewing Company, as well as selling at the weekly Wednesday Markets in Soldotna. Brian Gonzalez said they met their production capacity almost immediately and have struggled to keep up with the demand.
“We got a smaller fermenter that was gonna be 75 gallons, but we ended having to double that. And then double that,” Brian Gonzalez said. “At this point we’re shooting for another 500 gallons a month.”
The other competitors for Spark Soldotna were Candy Fitzpatrick, owner of Rest Angles, LLC; Kevin Miller, owner of Jumpin’ Junction Family Fun Center; Ron Levey, owner of Alaska Photo Adventures; and Sherri McVey, owner of Dinners Ready. The panel of judges was also comprised of local leaders in the business community: Steve Horn, associate professor of business at Kenai Peninsula College; Tim Jordan, owner of Northern Tech Group; Pam Parker, owner of Everything Bagels; Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Member Tyson Cox; and Megan Weston, owner of Odie’s Deli.
After all the business owners had given their presentations, the Class Act Drama Troupe from Triumvirate Theatre gave a performance of “The Greatest Show” by Panic! at the Disco at intermission while the judge’s deliberated on the winner.
In addition to being scored by the judges, the audience was also able to cast their vote for their favorite business or presentation. Kenai Kombucha ended up the winner of the popular vote as well as the judge’s choice and received two free years of membership to the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce..