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In conversation with a kombucha-brewing Varsity Blues hockey player

How second-year Brendan Bornstein started his own brand
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Brendan has big plans for him and Brendan's Boocha. COURTESY OF LARRY HENG
Brendan has big plans for him and Brendan's Boocha. COURTESY OF LARRY HENG

Brendan Bornstein, a second-year Varsity Blues hockey player, started brewing and selling kombucha tea earlier this semester. Since then, his brand, Brendan’s Boocha, has had great success. 

This week, I got the chance to have an email conversation with Bornstein about what it’s like to be a student athlete and a small business owner, how the pandemic has allowed him to explore new interests, and where he sees himself and his brand going in the future. 

The Varsity: Give me a quick day in the life. What is your routine looking like without a hockey season? 

Brendan Bornstein: My routine has definitely changed a lot. Typically, my day starts at around 8:00 am, and I make some coffee and drink a kombucha. Then, I do my morning workout followed by breakfast. After that, I settle in at my desk and start working on my schoolwork for the day, which generally consumes the rest of my morning and most of the afternoon.

Once I’m done, I practise yoga and meditate to unwind! After yoga, I make dinner and start working on whatever needs to be done with the kombucha business, which could be brewing, branding, social media, or business operations.

TV: I know that you have recently started selling kombucha. What inspired you to get into it?

BB: Gut health is always something that I have struggled with, and kombucha was a health product that I found worked well for me. I started brewing it for myself this year; however, my passion for kombucha and health and wellness stems back to my teenage years. 

I found that I was going through store-bought kombucha quickly, and with no hockey season and a little extra time on my hands, I figured I would give brewing my own kombucha a try! After experimenting with a few batches and flavours, I was very pleased with my product and decided to give some to my friends to try — and the feedback I got was tremendous. I was asked to make more for them, and that is when Brendan’s Boocha was born.

TV: Do you think your experience as a hockey player has given you insight into running a small business? If so, have you noticed any transferable skills between sports and entrepreneurship?

BB: I definitely think my experience as a hockey player has helped me when it comes to running my small business. Being a part of a team since such a young age has taught me the importance of working well with others, as well as contributing as much as you can to the common goal of the team or, in this case, a company. 

Work ethic and time management skills are also some things I have learned about through my years as a hockey player, and I have been able to incorporate them into all aspects of my life. Working hard in a team environment is extremely helpful and transferable from the sports world into the business world, and I am grateful for all of the life skills I have learned from being a hockey player. 

TV: I am sure that making and selling kombucha is pretty time consuming. How do you see yourself balancing school, hockey, and running a small business when hockey hopefully starts up again next year? 

BB: Yes, starting my own small business has definitely been very time consuming. In order to balance school, hockey, and running a small business, time management is going to be vital for me. But I have always needed to work on time management as a student athlete, so this is not something new for me. 

I believe I have prepared myself well to manage everything I have going on since I am a passionate person and truly love what I am building. I enjoy when I am busy with things that I am passionate about. I have big plans for the summer: I am hopefully adding some more team members to my business to help growth and expansion as we progress. 

TV: Where do you see yourself going in the future in regard to playing hockey and making kombucha? 

BB: I have big plans for myself as well as Brendan’s Boocha. My plan is to pursue hockey professionally while continuing to grow Brendan’s Boocha. I would like my company to grow into a health and wellness lifestyle brand bigger than just kombucha. 

I am also working on getting my yoga teacher certification, and I plan on incorporating different kinds of yoga and guided meditations into my brand. I am passionate about hockey and health and wellness, and I want to do everything in my power to be able to do both to the best of my ability for as long as possible.

TV: On a less serious note, who would win in a fight: Wayne Gretzky or GT Dave? 

BB: Wayne Gretzky, of course, come on now! 

TV: If you could watch hockey with one kombucha brewer, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

BB: Probably Daina Trout of Health-Ade. Her story is interesting and very similar to my own in how we got into selling kombucha. I would love to pick her brain.

TV: If you could brew kombucha with one hockey player, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

BB: Georges Laraque! He currently owns Rise Kombucha as well as his own vegan restaurant in Montréal, and I would love to get his perspective on transitioning from hockey into the world of health and wellness! 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.