As brothers who are only two years apart, Bryan and Justin did many things together growing up, even though they ventured into different academic fields. While Bryan went for chemical engineering, Justin became a physiotherapist.
Despite that, it was only natural that during the pandemic in 2021, the two came back together to cook up a new business idea.
It started with a simple desire to create an online platform to help people make an income by selling homemade products.
“We did that for a year, but honestly did not gain enough traction,” the brothers admitted. “However, there was one product on the platform that we were making ourselves—customisable kombucha that would help people get started on their personal health journey.”
Seeing potential in that product, the brothers decided to take a leap of faith and start Finding Hylas, a brand dedicated to the idea of customisable, personalised kombucha subscriptions.
Hylas refers to the Greek mythological character who was obsessed with finding a cure for sickness and pain. He went in search of a water that would bring health, but upon finding the water, he was enticed by the water nymphs, drowned, and was never found.
“In some ways we are all like Hylas, lost and needed to be found,” the brothers mused.
Thankfully, unlike the misled Hylas, the brothers found the roadmap they needed in personalised kombucha.
Finding the right formulation
Bryan and Justin actually learnt how to brew their kombuchas from their mum.
“My mom had very specific ‘rules’ around what makes good kombucha, which we still hold till today,” the brothers shared about their “secret” recipe.
Over time, they’ve made tweaks to arrive at the current taste, but the duo is always experimenting with new flavours based on their subscribers’ feedback and health needs.
“Since we customise for each subscriber, we actually have over a hundred different combinations, using fruits like passion fruit, dragon fruit, mango, lychee, cranberry, raspberry, lemongrass, turmeric, and mint,” they elaborated.
Some of their most popular blends target a few different health goals. This includes digestion and bloating, immune boosting, managing cholesterol, and antioxidants for heart health.
Moreover, Finding Hylas also offers specialty blends for keto or diabetic customers, which avoid ingredients that will cause an insulin spike.
Those who aren’t into health foods likely won’t know what blends to go for at first, though. Anticipating this, the brothers formulated a quiz to help understand the customer’s health goals. It asks questions such as “How many times a year do you catch a cold or flu?”, “Do you regularly get aches and pains?”, and other questions about your health and medical history.
Finding Hylas charges RM79 every month for a 500ml bottle per week, or RM119 a month for a 1L bottle per week. Breaking it down, that means RM19.75 for one of the 500ml bottles or RM29.75 for the 1L option.
For those who can’t commit, the brand offers two weeks’ supply of kombucha completely free. After that, they can choose to continue, or cancel if it’s not a right fit.
The brothers also collect all bottles back from customers, which will then be sent for washing and sterilising. This helps the team keep costs down while being environmentally friendly.
Currently, the brand only ships their kombucha around the Klang Valley area, mobilising their own fleet of drivers who deliver the kombucha fresh.
That said, Finding Hylas has found loyal subscribers in Malaysians who live out of state and travel to KL once or twice a month to collect their kombucha.
Finding the commitment
In a way, entrepreneurship is a part of Bryan and Justin’s blood. They shared that their grandfather had given up his job at Shell to start his own chemicals business, and that their parents also ran their own company.
Despite having been accustomed to entrepreneurship, the brothers weren’t entirely confident in the idea at first.
As such, they started Finding Hylas in a low-risk way, pooling together RM6,000 to get a domain and website, taking things one step at a time. Both brothers also kept their day jobs.
“Looking back, we realise we had no idea what we were doing,” they reflected.
“We used to make all the kombucha ourselves late into the night after our day jobs, and would do deliveries on weekends. On a few occasions, we would realise halfway through that we didn’t have all the right fruits, and one of us had to make a late-night run to the store.”
Today, the brothers have recruited the help of part-timers who help with the brewing, delivery, and admin organisation.
Justin has shifted his role at his physio clinic to a part-time one, opting to spend the rest of his time on the kombucha business. Meanwhile, Bryan is transitioning from his job at ExxonMobil to focus on Finding Hylas full time. They’re also aided by their sister, Ellisa, who helps handle their social media.
Finding the visibility they need
Currently, the business is based in SeaPark, Petaling Jaya. On an average week, they have about 70 active subscriptions—a long way since the brothers started on their journey.
“Initially, it was a slow start as we struggled to gain traction and visibility, but once more people actually started giving us a try, we have gained a lot more momentum through word of mouth and recommendations,” they said.
However, the biggest challenge for the team is still to get people to experience Finding Hylas.
“We have a free trial conversion rate of about 90%, so we know once people try our product, they are usually long-term subscribers,” they said. “Getting it into their hands initially is the problem as we don’t have a big publicity machine to back us.”
That said, kombucha has grown a lot in recent years, with most grocery stores and convenience stores selling at least an option or two of the fermented drink.
Aside from personalisation, the brothers believing Finding Hylas differs from those options because they try to offer a service and partner with their subscribers.
As such, they maintain ongoing conversations with customers around their health goals to provide a “deeply personal” flair. Their kombucha is also completely natural, with no carbonation or fruit flavourings.
Finding the future
While staying true to their core customisation offerings, Finding Hylas wants to expand its lineup to include new 250ml small bottles that can be placed in gyms and spas. For this, they aim to launch with two flavours—Finding Focus (Isotonic Kombucha) and Finding Digestion (for bloating and indigestion).
Committed to scaling the business, the brothers understand that it won’t be an easy road ahead.
“Customising kombucha to a hundred different people is difficult and will only get harder,” they shared. “Even if one day we get to a thousand or even 10,000 subscribers, we will still work to fulfil each individual request.”
- Learn more about Finding Hylas here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Finding Hylas