Judy Tan is founder of Purely, a beverage company that handcrafts artisanal drinking vinegar and sparkling pre/probiotic tonics. We are founded on the core values of sustainability, excellence, vision, and community. Our mission is to open up a cultural drinking vinegar experience for everyone to try. Bridge cultures with Purely and breathes new life into old classics. Purely is the 2019 Good Foods Award Winner and an Official Ark of Taste Product USA by Slow Food.
Judy is also the creator of tanQ, a not-for-profit organization where each month, tanQ partners up with a non-profit organization and designs a unique tee to reflect the mission of the organization.
Judy is a fearless and relentless entrepreneur with a passion for art/design/creativity. Her story illustrates how a person can launch an innovative business on their own, experience success and setbacks alike, and always keep the commitment to their dreams. She embraces both personal and professional challenges as a way to learn, grow, and enjoy new experiences. Blessed with an enthusiastic and optimistic attitude, she endeavors to make a difference in this world and create work that is positive, life changing and inspirational.
It's my pleasure to bring you today an interview with a healthy tonics entrepreneur I met recently. Sunny and energetic, it's clear Judy is doing something right to have so much pep and a thriving business. While I suspect at least part of it has to do with her boundless energy, kindness, and joyous demeanor, I'll let you see her tips for success for yourself.
Sophie: Your drinking vinegars are so tasty! Could you tell us about the benefits of drinking vinegar and what makes yours different from ones we might buy at a grocery store?
JT: Purely is an artisanal fruit-infused drinking vinegar handcrafted in small batches with high quality organic fruits, herbs, and botanicals. Every part of the world has their version of drinking vinegar. Our recipe was inspired by a thousand-year old vinegar craft family secret combined with a modern approach. We cold-infuse our ingredients to extract all the goodness inside and soak everything until it reaches a flavor-rich elixir. All with half the sugar of conventional methods.
It naturally contains probiotics and prebiotics, helps balance your blood sugar levels, and absorbs lactic acid in your body. Combine these health properties with the low sugar, zero caffeine, and zero alcohol found in Purely, and it is your perfect workout and wellness drink. It’s an easy addition to your diet and a great way to improve your overall health!
Sophie: How did you get into this? What made you want to make and sell your own vinegars?
JT: I went to school for design and used to design for companies like Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Adidas, etc. in Portland, OR. I became an entrepreneur because the idea of working for corporate never sat well with me. I have always wanted to be in charge of my own destiny and create something meaningful that will make a positive impact on the world.
I’ve been drinking apple cider vinegar (ACV) for years and have friends that drink it strictly for the health benefits despite of the taste. I decided to make an ACV drink that tastes delicious with low sugar after not finding it on the market. Also, growing up vinegar was an important part of Chinese culture and cuisine. My mother used vinegar in all type of dishes she made at home. One of my favorites is her papaya pork knuckle ginger vinegar soup. To this day, she makes it whenever I come home to visit. Growing up, I watched my grandmother infuse plums and seasonal fruits in rice vinegar sweetened with honey. I just love vinegar! I love the taste of it and what it does for our bodies. I wanted to bring this classic back with a twist to meet modern needs and it can be delicious!
Sophie: You founded another company before this one. What did you learn from that first foray into entrepreneurship?
JT: Ohh… So many lessons I learned from the first one…
Don’t do it for the money. You will get burnt out and passion will be the only thing that will help you make it. Success will come if you have everything aligned. This lesson was very much ingrained in me after learning from my first startup business.
Saying "no" will set you free and forward. Running my first business, I said "yes" to almost everything that came across my path. We ended up taking on more projects than we actually had time and energy for and became stressed or frustrated from having no time to work on the projects that were more important. When we say "yes" to one thing, we are often saying "no" to something else (that might be more worthwhile). By setting boundaries, we find the freedom to behave in our best interest, with fewer distractions and fewer unwanted intrusions. This is even more important in our digital age, where there are so many people fighting for our attention and so many ways to be distracted. What I learned is discriminating between the projects that help you get there and the things that don’t. Learn to say "no" to commitments that do not move you toward your goal.
Select your partners carefully. You will be involved in all kinds of informal partnerships with people you need to rely on when you start a business. They can be co-founders, suppliers, vendors, contractors or even major clients. Choose them all wisely with aligned visions and goals for your business. I learned that a bad relationship has the potential to sabotage your business.
Have a clear vision of where you'd like to take your brand and stick with it. We had three co-founders in my previous startup and we had a vision, but it was not clear enough and we kept changing the target. It became near impossible to achieve.
Be persistent and don’t give up. It’s going to be hard; this business is a marathon so remember why you started in the beginning and stay with that passion. Enjoy the journey because it will be your life for the next five, ten years of building an incredible brand/story.
Sophie: Congrats on your recent wedding! What helped you manage planning a wedding while also growing a young food business?
JT: Aww thank you! It was definitely challenging but I actually really enjoyed planning our wedding since I love the design aspect of it! I was probably sleep deprived and working 90+ hours every week for months. As you know, planning a wedding is a like full time job. But HEY — you just do what you gotta do! Sometimes when you’re given less time, you’re more efficient and more organized. I definitely learned to be more organized from planning a wedding and running a business at the same time. Having a planner and setting calendar blocks really helped me organize my time and be more productive.
Sophie: What do you think has been most important to your success thus far?
JT: Hah! I have very high expectations for myself and I still feel I have ways to go to feel successful. We have worked hard to get to where we are right now but there’s much work to be done. However, the most important thing to success is a good work ethic, positive attitude, and perseverance!
Sophie: I love that you’ve been making cocktail recipe cards to go with your drinking vinegar! Can you share your favorite with us?
JT: Yes! My go-to and two-minute cocktail recipe is:
1 oz Purely
1 oz Spirit (ex: Vodka, Gin, etc.)
3-4 oz Soda Water (to taste)
1/2 oz Lemon/Lime Juice
Combine ingredients (except soda) along with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake thoroughly, top with soda water and either served up or over ice. Garnish with an herb sprig, slice of fruit, or citrus wheel. Enjoy!
Sophie: If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
JT: I would start a dance/yoga studio since I grew up dancing. I want to offer classes from ballet to hip hop to ballroom to yoga. I want to build not only a studio but a community that supports each other to reach our highest, purest self.
Or a design studio! I just want to create and create value for people. That’s when I’m happiest.
Sophie: What are the pillars of your self-care and wellness routine?
JT: I try to make it yoga, zumba, or some kind of workout class three to four times a week. I used to religiously go to the gym six times a week (before wedding planning) because I believe physical health has a big impact on your mental health, which translate to your mental sharpness and performance in your business and life. It became a habit for me to exercise.
Every morning, I start my day with a glass of Q SOO (ACV tonic) or a smoothie with Purely (ACV Elixir). It has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial properties that boost your immune system, a powerful alkalizing agent, and it kickstarts your metabolism first thing in the morning. I feel good and energized for the rest of the day with this wellness routine I’ve been doing for a while. I eat pretty healthy on the weekdays with lots of veggies, avocado, fruits and lean protein. Our bodies do so much for us and we have to thank them with the love, good food, good skincare that they deserve. You only have one body for this life — treat it well.
About the author:
Anne-Sophie Bousset ("Sophie" to English-speaking friends), is a freelance marketer and community builder. She helps companies build their brand, attract clients, and build a community around their product. Her favorite things include sunshine, yoga, reading, and lazy Sundays in with her cat, Phelps. She can be found on Twitter @Sophie_Bousset.