Alison Zarrow encourages you to let go of your fear and try something new. After all, that’s what helped her find her path.
Zarrow was raised in a health-conscious household, which wasn’t the norm in Oklahoma at that time. Still, it was not until she moved out West for college that she discovered plentiful organic produce, got diagnosed with a serious digestive condition and, as a result, developed her current personal wellness ethos.
She began drinking the kombucha after a friend suggested that it might help her stomach and got hooked. After spending a small fortune to support her addiction, Zarrow realized that she could be brewing her own at home. Eight years of experimentation later, she co-founded beverage company, Clearly Kombucha. Her fermented green tea drinks are now available in over 25 states nationwide.
Here, the entrepreneur dishes on how she maintains her sanity and health outside her regular routine and explains why being up before her alarm rings is a telltale sign of happiness:
Live The Process: You practice yoga, run, hike and are consciously selective about your diet. How did this lifestyle develop?
Alison Zarrow: I was raised to make healthy choices, as my mother made a conscious effort to cook balanced meals while I was growing up. Given that I grew up in Oklahoma, healthy lifestyles were not exactly the norm. The Tulsa State Fair’s claim to fame is the deep-fried Snickers bar.
During my first year of college I began going to farmers markets so that I could have super fresh ingredients. I also began running outside, which is something that I could not do in the 110-degree summers in Oklahoma. My sophomore year of college, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a digestive disorder. Even though I had been leading a healthy lifestyle, certain things were not working for me. It was then that I made a conscious decision to listen to my body and alter my diet. This diagnosis, in combination with access to some of the best produce in the country, shaped the way that I now eat. I have no excuse as to why I can’t prepare my own fresh, healthy food.
LTP: What inspired you to begin brewing kombucha at home and to eventually found Clearly Kombucha?
AZ: A friend mentioned that I should try drinking kombucha to alleviate my digestive issues and I was instantly hooked. I was inspired to start home brewing after purchasing kombucha regularly at Whole Foods and realizing that there was only one brand available. I wanted to create a tastier brew. And, eight years later, with my amazing business partner, Caleb Cargle, I did! Now our brand, Clearly Kombucha, sits on the same shelf at Whole Foods in Palo Alto where I originally bought my first “’booch.”
As opposed to the other kombuchas out there, which are a bit more vinegary, Clearly Kombucha is much lighter and suits even the most sensitive of palates. As we experimented with home brewing, Caleb and I saw the opportunity to make a kombucha that was more “drinkable” but with all the same benefits. We thought it shouldn’t be something that only some people can drink; we wanted to make a version that everyone could enjoy.
LTP: Many people find it difficult to make the time for a wellness-conscious life. While steering your fast-growing company, do you struggle to maintain your healthy habits? How do you find balance?
AZ: Yes, it is difficult, but there are small things you can do to maintain your healthy habits. You also have to accept that you can’t keep an exact routine, but always do what you can in your current situation—and this advice is coming from a Type A, list-loving routine keeper!
Last year, I spent a month in Florida for the launch of Clearly Kombucha in the Florida Fresh Markets. Every day I was driving a lot and eating meals on the road. I was living out of hotels and never stayed at the same place more than one night. It was extremely difficult to keep any sort of life routine, much less a workout and healthy eating routine. I did a few simple things that helped me stay sane:
First, I always had my favorite snacks, so I had something healthy available if I was in a pinch. For exercise, I squeezed in cardio by always having workout clothes and sneakers in my car. During that month, I would pull into random neighborhoods, go on a quick run and then jump back on the road. I always do some research on yoga and fitness studios in the areas in which I’m traveling too and, if my schedule allows, I check out a yoga class.
It wasn’t ideal, but I was able to work with the circumstances and stay both sane and in shape. When I’m traveling, I try not to be too hard on myself about maintaining a perfect routine. When I am at home, I make a conscious effort to be extra healthy. I cook most of my meals, try to get sufficient sleep and stick to a routine, so that, when I am on the road, I can embrace the adventure.
LTP: What advice would you offer those who want to try DIY organic food and beverage projects at home, but are afraid they won’t do it “right”?
AZ: There is no “right.” Some of my best creations in the kitchen have happened by mistake. Sometimes I am out of a primary ingredient for a recipe, so I have to make an adjustment and end up making something amazing! So, my advice is to stop thinking of what is “right” and just get in there and try to make something that sounds like it will be tasty!
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
AZ: To me, happiness is more of a feeling than a look. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that is making me feel so good, but it’s when I have this drive to get up and get my day started. I know I am happy when I am up before my alarm goes off, and I can’t stay in bed any longer. It’s when I don’t know exactly why I’m so excited, but I am. It’s when I don’t know what the day will bring, but I’m certain the unknown holds some sort of promise.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day?
AZ: To me, living the process means being comfortable with the ever-changing aspects of both my business and personal life. It means being intentional, purposeful and present, acknowledging that some things are out of my control and embracing that fact.