Meet the Founder: Tiago Carneiro of Nova Kombucha and Novo Brewery

After launching Novo Brewery in 2014, it didn’t take long for Tiago Carneiro to start racking up awards. His unique beers, brilliantly balanced with tropical flavors, were a smash hit in San Diego County and internationally acclaimed.

Still, he had more goals on tap. With Nova Easy Kombucha, Tiago changed the game and created the perfect beverage: gluten-free, vegan-friendly, probiotic, and fun by nature with 6% ABV.

Recently, we caught up with Tiago to learn more about his journey from Brazil, to the United States, to revolutionizing the beverage industry.

Republic of Pink
Republic of Pink

01 Why did you start Novo Brewery and Nova Kombucha?

When I first began brewing in 1999, my dream was to move from Brazil to the U.S. and build one of the most innovative beverage companies in the world. When I opened Novo, I focused on brewing the best possible local craft beer for our local community.

Then, I explored the world of fermentation a little deeper. I launched Nova Kombucha to make alcoholic drinks in a more natural way. Southern California was the perfect place to do that.

Novo Brewing can standing vertically
Novo Brewing cans cheers

02 What obstacles did you face along the way?

My wife and I started from square one when we moved to the United States. It took me some time to understand the market and the distribution model. Building a reputation from scratch and a team with the same values as you takes time. Our team also needed time to develop this very specific skill set. These aren’t things you can buy; it all takes time.

The beverage industry is extremely competitive. I was going up against giant companies as well as startups backed by lots of investor capital. Meanwhile, we’re a family-owned company, so finding a space on shelves was a daily challenge. The consumer has a lot of options and you, as the producer, have only one chance. We knew we had to dedicate ourselves to quality, every step of the way.

The biggest obstacle we’re facing right now is this unprecedented crisis. We are using this time to innovate so that we’re ready for every opportunity when everything is back to normal. We will definitely be stronger after all of this.

03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Be positive and don’t overcomplicate things. Make sure you know your goals and build a simple model to track them. I always like to have three main goals in mind for me and my team.

Do your best and trust your team, but also remember that there will be mistakes and failures along the way. We can’t control everything, but we can learn and grow from our mistakes to avoid repeating them.

Make sure that your team’s values and dreams align with yours. No one can do anything alone.

Keep dreaming and enjoy the journey, because we only succeed when we do what we love.

Novo Brewing founder, Tiago Carneiro standing outside Novo Brewing
The outside of Novo Brewing

04 What’s on the horizon for Novo and Nova?

At Novo, we’ll continue to make fantastic local beer. At Nova, we’ll continue to produce the world’s most innovative brand of alcoholic kombucha, right here in California.

After lots of tastings and consumer feedback, we’re brewing our new all-natural nonalcoholic variety – Nova Booch.

For us, it’s all about fermentation, innovation, and producing healthier beverage alternatives.

Novo Brewing founder, Tiago Carneiro standing outside Novo Brewing
The outside of Novo Brewing

05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?

I’m very focused on my work but I love what I do, so that makes work/life balance a little easier. I also did a bit of Muay Thai with my brother to help relieve stress but, to be honest, I haven’t been training much lately. We just had our first child, so it’s a challenge to balance work, family, and fitness all at once.

Fortunately, my wife has always supported me in all of my pursuits and that has allowed me to stay present in the moment. I’m loving it.

I’m really self-motivated by challenges. We started from zero in this amazing country and, now, we’re thriving. Even though we’ve enjoyed success, our work isn’t done yet. We’ll never stop innovating. We want to completely change the beverage industry.