What's UpDog?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

UpDog Kombucha 

Olivia Wolff and Lauren Miller have a lot in common. Best friends since attending the same high school in New Jersey, the girls also chose to attend the same college - Wake Forest University - with Olivia graduating in 2016 and Lauren set to graduate in 2017. Each has also served as captain of their high-school swim team, and both are yoga fanatics. Their latest venture, UpDog Kombucha, is a small-batch brewing company based in Winston-Salem that was born out of a shared love for this fizzy, healthy beverage.

So what is this trendy drink people are craving? It’s a handcrafted, non-alcoholic brew made from tea and a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), Olivia explains, that’s taken through a fermentation process and results in a naturally carbonated drink full of healthy enzymes, probiotics, and antioxidants. “It’s an ancient super tea,” Wolff says, “and it supports strong digestive and immune health.” Take one swig of the tasty beverage, and it’s clear these young entrepreneurs have found their niche.

Meet the 22-year-old mavens behind the city's trendiest new drink. 

The girls started making kombucha out of their dorm rooms in the spring of 2016 and selling it to other students on campus. After creating an Instagram account and seeing orders skyrocket, they realized their fledgling business carried a lot of traction. By August of 2016, they formed an official company and became NCDA certified. They began making their brew out of a shared commercial kitchen provided by Margaret Norfleet-Neff, co-founder of the Cobblestone Farmers Market.
“Each batch takes two weeks to ferment, and we’re making 200 gallons a week,” says Wolff, whose degree in health and exercise science helps her come up with the flavor combinations for the kombucha—all of which are named after various yoga poses. This includes Wild Thing (apple ginger), Happy Baby (lavender), Peacock (pineapple mint), Sun Salute (mango ginger), and Sphinx (mojito). “Production happens three days a week, and deliveries are made daily, even five times a day,” she adds.
While UpDog has been wildly successful, the girls admit starting a business while they were both full-time college students has not been easy. Miller, an economics major who crunches numbers for the business, says, “We often joke that we are our own bosses but also our own employees. We have to do everything—advertising, production, delivery, sales, accounting, and our own chemistry.”
Still, it’s an accomplishment these 22-year-olds can be proud of, though they are quick to credit their success to the business mentors at Wake Forest. The girls were also the two-time recipients of The Deacon Springboard, a WFU grant that fosters creativity and entrepreneurship, which helped them launch their business idea.
“The nice thing about this business is we were able to start it with our grant money, and then we keep upgrading as we can afford it,” says Wolff. “For instance, we just purchased a 50-gallon fermenter.”
Wolff and Miller look forward to one day opening a taproom for their kombucha brewery, but for now they’re reaching for the more realistic goal of looking for a distributor and hiring a few employees to make things more efficient. Whatever the future holds for the girls, it’s clear that UpDog is on its way to becoming a North Carolina favorite.

UpDog Kombucha is available locally in 12-ounce bottles and on tap at various locations throughout the city. 

Buy It Local
UpDog Kombucha is available in 12-oz. bottles for $4.50 to $5, depending on location. All flavors are vegan-friendly and gluten-free. For more information, go to UpDogkombucha.
Sold by the Bottle
  • A&S Natural Health
  • Diamondback Grill
  • Krankies Coffee
  • Master’s Fitness
  • Stella Brew
  • Sweet Aromaz
  • Twin City Hive
  • WFU campus

Available on Tap:
  • Cobblestone Farmers’ Market
  • Hoots Roller Bar
  • Let it Grow Produce
  • Local 27101
  • Mission Pizza
  • Village Juice Co.
  • WFU campus
  • Yoga Dogz

Article by Naomi Gingerich, as published in Winston-Salem Monthly Magazine, March 2017. Photos courtesy of Red Cardinal Studio.


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