Homegrown kombucha and milk kefir company Le Vyr was on the verge of shutting down when its 23-year-old founder, Adele Lau, decided to pursue her undergraduate studies at the University of Glasgow in United Kingdom.
However, her same-aged friend, Claire Tee, saw the potential of Le Vyr and decided to take over the business when Adele headed overseas.
The name ‘Le Vyr’ is an edited spelling of yeast — which is present in both kombucha and milk kefir — in French known as “Levuare”. Through observing the local movement and evolution of mixology and beer brewing, Le Vyr was founded to push local kombucha and milk kefir scene to the next level.
“Our aim is to take an international idea and truly make it a local product,” said Claire.
The motivation behind starting Le Vyr brewed when Adele was working as a cosmetic chemist in a startup. She was also brewing her own kombucha at home, and it soon became a ‘eureka’ moment to make a business out of it.
She invested a capital of S$1,000 on vessels, tools and ingredients into Le Vyr, which started out as a mere passion project during the circuit breaker in March 2020.
The business was based in her home kitchen and it quickly broke even six months later, though every single profit earned was reinvested into Le Vyr.
Nostalgic flavours that remind of childhood
The brand started out with only three kombucha flavours: Teh O, Teh Limau and Liang Teh. Two months later, it expanded the product line to include milk kefirs, with mango sago as its very first flavour.
Le Vyr usually develops new flavours during festive seasons, and its inspirations derive from complementary food or beverage that are unique to Singaporeans.
“We focus on local flavours and shy away from conventional (ones),” said Claire.
“Some of the flavours launched remind us of our childhood, some remind us of our after-school days, and some even remind us of a remedy for colds growing up. We fuse R&D (research and development) and core memories to stand out.”
She also shared that there were some flavours that failed to make the cut due to various reasons. For instance, the team recently planned on launching a pineapple tart-flavoured kombucha in line with Chinese New Year.
However, the team could not achieve the desired flavour that tastes good despite many attempts. Nevertheless, they are not giving up and are working hard to perfect the flavour in time for next year’s launch.
Claire added that the entire R&D process takes up to two to three months — from conceptualising the products, to testing flavour and ingredient combinations, to designing the packaging, and conducting product photoshoots.
Overcoming Covid-19 and other business challenges
Le Vyr’s initial game plan was to start small, and eventually achieve brand awareness through pop-ups and markets before branching out into cafes, bars and restaurants.
However, due to the emergence of Covid-19, the plan had to be stalled. Moreover, with the social gathering restrictions, all of their workshops had to be called off, just like many of its other business opportunities.
Regardless, the team picked up its pace by raising awareness through regular postings on its social media platforms and media coverages from various publications.
Beyond Covid-19 challenges, Claire said that she also faced other typical business challenges. Personally, she felt that the hardest bit was managing every aspect of the business — from marketing to operations — single-handedly.
“As a small business owner, I must say that it does get a little overwhelming having to be on top of your [game] 24/7,” said Claire, adding that having a proper routine or standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place helps matters.
Despite the challenges, Le Vyr has managed to hit a couple of milestones in its business journey. Since inception, it has grown to launch more kombuchas, a new product line, as well as seasonal products such as its Apple Crumble Milk Kefir ice cream during the Christmas season.
A physical store and brewery are on its business map
When Le Vyr was first launched, it was mostly family and friends who supported the business. Eventually, they were sold out months in advance for pre-orders.
“Albeit only selling three products, it was a sell-out!” expressed Claire.
To date, its five-pack kombucha tasting bundle remains its best-selling product as it includes all its best-selling flavours. According to Claire, they make for perfect novelty gifts, an out-of-the-box experience for a special occasion, or a great bundle to kickstart one’s kombucha journey.
Moving forward, Claire revealed that Le Vyr has plans to set up a physical store and/or a brewery in the near future. The ultimate goal however, is to have their products stocked on supermarket shelves islandwide.
“As our brand focuses on local flavours, we currently do not have any plans on expanding it overseas. However, should an opportunity arise, we would be ready and happy to hop on (it),” she added.
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Featured Image Credit: Le Vyr