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Seeing opportunities, not hurdles

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Finalist: Big Leap

Unity Vibration

Rachel and Tarek Kanaan | Photo by Benjamin Weatherston

Rachel and Tarek Kanaan | Photo by Benjamin Weatherston

Some of the world’s best businesses are created by chance. That’s the case with Unity Vibration.

Rachel and Tarek Kanaan moved from California to Ypsilanti, Tarek’s hometown, five years ago. They were big fans of Kombucha tea, a fermented drink made with sugar, tea, bacteria and yeast.

“It’s the fastest growing health beverage,” Rachel said. “We were buying it ourselves, but it was expensive to buy it every day.”

So they started making their own, and eventually decided to turn tea-making into a business. Their operation grew; they now make nine kinds of tea.

They had a nice little operation until 2010, when the government required Kombucha tea producers to measure the alcohol content. Unity Vibration’s tea measured just over the alcohol limit.

They treated it as an opportunity instead of a hurdle, and chose to become a microbrewery. “If we’re going to be a microbrewery, let’s make something else,” Rachel said. So they came up with Kombucha beer, which had similar bacteria and yeast strains as the tea. They played around with a few recipes and became the godfathers of a new craft beer in the U.S. Their efforts were legitimized last year when their Bourbon Peach American Wild Ale was named one of the top 25 beers of the year by “Draft” magazine.

Since then, orders have skyrocketed. “We can’t meet demand at this point,” Rachel said. “This year has been off the charts.” They sell four flavors of beer in 10 states, with two more coming soon.

The Kanaans plan to double the size of their 2,400-square-foot operation, but Tarek says they’re “holding back on expanding because we can’t fill the orders.”

They host tastings on the first and third Friday of each month at their facility off Ecorse Road in Ypsilanti, and plan to open a tasting room in Depot Town in Ypsi next year.

Their microbrewery is taking off, but they won’t be happy unless the entire community comes with them. As Rachel said, “Success for us is being profitable, growing sustainably, hiring Michigan workers, helping the local economy, making a consistent, high-quality product, and spreading love, health and possibility into the world, and having fun doing it.”

Kyle Poplin

Kyle Poplin is co-founder and editor of The Ann magazine.

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