The truth about your favorite kombucha company
I'm glad you're here. I'd like to tell you a little story.
Once upon a time, an NC State undergrad was approached by a guy named Amo York. He reached out about this new kombucha company he was starting - the company is called Tribucha, and he needed some art to be put on labels for his craft brews..
"Sure!" She thought, excited about the opportunity to build her portfolio and be a part of his vision of "supporting local artists and culture." She gave him a stellar deal for 4 labels, with the agreement that her website would be put on the bottles.
Fast forward a few years later, she gets a call from his business partner and self-proclaimed marketing genius, Adrian Larrea. He boasts about the company's recent round of investments - a QUARTER OF MILLION DOLLARS, he says excitedly.
He thinks the company is going to BE YUGE. He is convinced this kombucha is the best thing since sliced bread... Pepsi will surely buy them out... But before that happens they need to redesign the labels to be put on cans. It's innovative, he says... Nobody is doing it, he says.
Hmm, okay, she thought. She mentions that the price might be a wee bit higher for the re-design, as she's got more experience now - and wants to take a lot of time making these as bad-ass as possible.
So they begin to negotiate.
They mull it over.
She tries to come up with a fair cost for the re-design...
Suddenly she gets a phone call - it's Adrian.
"We would love to have you on retainer, in fact, we'd love to offer you a percentage of the company. How's 6%?"
....Well, "THAT SEEMS LIKE AN IDEAL SOLUTION!" she thinks.
So she shifts her whole life around - makes plans to get out of her lease agreement and moves to Downtown Raleigh to work more closely with the company. She comes to work - she attends work functions, she goes to parties with other investors... Then the workload starts to be pretty heavy. "Oh well, she thinks. It's all for the part ownership."....
But strangely, every time a contractual agreement was brought up, the subject got quickly dismissed. Swept under the rug... "Yeah, he says, I'll have an agreement drafted soon, don't worry about writing one."
Months go by, but still, nothing.
At this time, the company was renting their brew space from Fortnight Brewing Company out of Cary, NC. Both companies are invested into heavily by David Gardner - so Adrian had a BRIGHT IDEA: Let's re-design all of Fortnight's beer labels too! It'll make us, and Fortnight look better." .... "It feels a little fishy." she thought. Since she wasn't making any extra $ for all this extra work - but if she was putting this energy in, she would surely get the energy back in return.
Little did she know, Tribucha was getting a break on their rent payments from Fortnight for these re-designs... An undisclosed amount of money.
A dinner party was planned at the house of Adrian and his swanky downtown apartment. Some work chat began to ensue, as it usually did when therewaswine or kombucha cocktails involved. Since they were on the subject, she asked once more about that contract... It was really hard to keep working 60 hours a week for this amount of money. Blood, sweat andtears were dripping into the computer. The conversation took an awkward emotional turn as Adrian began to lose his temper over the situation, and that was when the CFO quickly chimed in... "Whoa, Adrian, you can't tell her how to do her job, shes a 1099."
For those of you that don't know,a1099, according to the IRS is an independent contractor.
"An independent contractor?!" Her blood started to boil. She may as well have been freelancing the whole time.Industrystandardfor her experience level was between $50-$100/hour... and here she was, making between $15-$20. For 6 months she thought she was working toward something bigger, something better - something that could provide safety and real money to invest with.
So she thought long and hard... Was this "promise" even real? Or was it a lie told to get her to work harder... Who would benefit from all this painstaking design?
Would she ever realize her 6% ownership of this company she fought so hard to be a part of.
Websites, graphics, collateral, product packaging, merchandise, stickers, labels, photoshoots... 11:30 pm work texts.... all night design marathons. All for nothing?
If there was no hope for ownership, she would decide to take her life back.
If you've made it this far - I commend you. This story has been as difficult to write as it has been to live. I would know, because the girl in the story is me.
But this tale is not over. Legalities have ensued about copyrights, trademarks and other tedious he-said-she-said arguments involving lawyers and the company's many rich board members.
When a cease-and-desist was sent out, the company laughed in my face. When members of the board met together - they held Adrian's story as true, that he "offered me a position with the company and she turned it down." A blatant lie. But as we know, money usually wins.
And so here we are. Learning precious lessons - to never, ever work for anyone who sends up red flags, no matter how good the promise might seem. Never work for a company that boasts "supporting local artists and culture.." only to find out they silence the voice of the artist. And never, ever, ever, work without a contract.