Here is a cuppa that delivers your daily dose of probiotics and tastes just like your favourite tea. Not convinced? An entrepreneurial NUS team comprising alumni—Shermaine Heng and Christian Eviston-Putsch, and graduate student, Shu Wen Sew —hope to convince tea fans and those seeking to improve their gut health otherwise.
“Looking back, Curated Culture was born unintentionally. I was working with a fellow NUS postgraduate student in 2020 in the hope of commercialising the probiotics tea. My aim was to introduce healthy living by providing healthy and tasty food options that people can enjoy and that allow them to feel good about themselves,” Heng recounted.
“I saw great market potential in the probiotics tea and went on to bring Shu Wen into the project as we were both from the same Food Science & Technology (FST) cohort," she added.
At the same time, Eviston-Putsch, an NUS MBA student and entrepreneur, was looking to start a health and nutrition-related business related to his interests in fermentation and nutrition. When he chanced upon this research on the NUS Industry Liaison Office’s research database, Eviston-Putsch knew he wanted to be a part of this venture.
After just one meeting, the trio—who immediately connected over their shared passion—was confident that they could leverage their expertise in the food and technology business to create and run their own probiotic tea business.
To equip themselves for the journey ahead, they took part in NUS Enterprise’s HANGAR Booster Programme and the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP), both of which played pivotal roles in setting Curated Culture off on the course of success.
The four-week booster programme, which included incubation and induction phases for start-ups, provided them with the right opportunity and resources to formulate their business plan and fine-tune their value proposition. Likewise, the guidance provided by mentors during the GRIP programme helped them refine their ideas.
Following several iterations, which included adopting feedback from customers, such as requests to introduce plant-based sweeteners in the beverages, they eventually developed their business model.
The outcome? A creative collection of cold tea blends, which are brewed using the finest quality of organic tea leaves that are free of preservatives and packed with healthy probiotics. And that’s not all! Enhanced with plant-based sugars, these brews contain zero artificial sweeteners, and are also dairy- and gluten-free.
But as is true for all entrepreneurial ventures, the trio’s journey was not always smooth-sailing. During the initial stages, they struggled to manage priorities and find time to meet, as they juggled their day jobs with studies. Despite the obstacles, their passion and conviction led them to embark on their venture full-time. There has been no looking back for the three graduates since then.
Sharing how he has savoured every bit of the journey, and looked at it as a major learning experience, Eviston-Putsch, who is Chief Executive Officer, said, “Everything we have done to date, was all part of the journey. We all make mistakes, and this is part and parcel of learning. Fail fast and fail often. At least we realised our mistakes early, we listened, adapted quickly, and eventually we got it right.”
With the right kind of attitude, planning, and, the trio are finally seeing their efforts pay off. Curated Culture has debuted well in the market, and the new, healthy spin on traditional teas is going down well with customers.
The beverages are now available online, at outlets on NUS Campus, and at selected retailers. With the manufacturing process now handled by a contract manufacturer, the team at Curated Culture is focusing on gearing up its marketing efforts, with the aim of creating better product awareness among customers as well as getting more vendors sell their unique beverages.
As rewarding as it has been to experience the initial tastes of success, the trio are keen to promote healthier living in the community by formulating and producing a range of healthy beverages, including healthier functional beverages, in future.
Adapted by Sruthi Jagannathan from Trusting your gut.