Philippe Trinh and Julian Lesser’s kitchen is cleaner than most. It’s as if Philippe’s obsession with clean surfaces made him destined to be the fastidious kombucha maker he is today. Walking through their kitchen is not only a visual lesson in fermented food safety, but it also begins to make you feel as if you’re visiting a Hollywood set for a B-movie scene taking place in a mad scientist’s lab.
Multiple two and five gallon metal-tapped carboy brewing vessels are arranged in various spots throughout the kitchen and lined up across the counter, family portrait style, smallest to largest. Each vessel holds a tendriled, pancake-like blob in a color study of brown-green shaded liquid, each in different stages of the fermentation process. It’s amazing to think that all the beneficial bacteria you seek from a bottle of Seek North kombucha started growing right here.
In a world full of mergers, buyouts, and subsidiaries, Seek North is one of those rare beasts that stands alone. They are 100% private, self-funded, and driven by a philanthropic mission. Beginning with experiments in their own New York City kitchen and using the sturdy foundation of their belief in each other, their mission became even more central to their project than the kombucha itself. Seek North itself is a product of a dedicated and confident partnership between Philippe and Julian. It has weathered all the storms that thirteen years together can bring including a challenging struggle with Lyme Disease. They started this road together, and they are intent on forming a team with a true sense of purpose in the world. They hope that every product they create is noticeably filled with heart and produced with love.
Julian hits the streets to find appropriate retailers and share Seek North’s unique story and mission with them. It is through these personal conversations that the kombucha ends up on shelves. The two of them collaborate on all of the marketing and promotional elements of the business. Philippe’s experience in the world of fashion design and Julian’s digital marketing background mesh to create every aspect of what you see when you look at Seek North. The success and output our company rests on just 3 people—Julian, Philippe, and Bartek Starodaj. Bartek Starodaj is the sole full-time employee of Seek North, and he has been instrumental in their success as well.
After selling Boro Magazine—one of their first combined entrepreneurial projects they were able to move on to another venture together. Drawn to brisk air and tree-lined mountains, and seeking a more natural and adventurous life, they started looking north. Ultimately, this led Julian and Philippe to purchase their first home together in Kingston, NY—the heart of the Hudson Valley in 2012.
Their first home purchase then transitioned into other real estate ventures. This quickly gained momentum, leading to additional home purchases, self-remodels, and then renting out. Due to all of this work, they began to lead a bit of a double life. They found themselves spending more and more time in the quiet quaintness of Upstate New York gardening, mountain climbing, hiking, and breathing in chillier, cleaner air, all while maintaining their multiple-business household NYC hustle during the week.
Just as they were finally finding the flow of this new life, Julian began getting intense headaches and feeling debilitatingly fatigued for seemingly no reason. Not only did the frequency of these issues increase, but so did their severity. More symptoms began to pile on—cognitive symptoms like being unable to think in complete thoughts and inexplicable mood swings became more frequent. Dealing with and researching this progression for a year, they began to strongly suspect that this was Lyme disease.
Countless hours of desperate research caused them to also come across research on how drastically diet can affect overall health, physical symptoms, and immunity. On the subject of immunity, they came to learn that a large portion of immunity is located in people’s gut, and it is affected to a great degree by our microbiome. Their third venture together was not oriented toward profit or business, but rather involved getting serious about their health together, trying to give Julian a light in the nightmare he was stuck in.
As fate would have it, Philippe had long been messing around with kombucha and all things fermented, simply due to his love of sour things. But after so much research and learning about the probiotic impact of what he’d been making all along, he now knew this was a project worth pursuing even more. So began the intense experimenting, formulating, and blending, so frequently and to such a high degree that the entire house smelled like vinegar at times.
After multiple doctors and a painful spinal tap, they finally had their answer. Julian tested positive for neurological Lyme Disease. He quickly went in for multiple rounds of aggressive antibiotic treatments. Philippe and Julian both remained committed to taking care of their bodies, health, and immunity. They both became vegetarian, cut sugar from their diet, and cooked more at home. At the same time, Philippe focused on becoming a prolific kombucha alchemist.
Throughout years of experiments, as this evolved from mild hobby to deliberate mission, Philippe got extremely good at making kombucha. So much so that he began to convert not only Julian, but also his friends who hated kombucha, swearing it just wasn’t for them. He later started adding their garden’s herbs and sourcing other herbs they couldn’t grow, while mixing in beneficial juices or florals for flavor and an extra boost. His living experiments began to truly come to life. Ever generous (and terrible at keeping secrets), they gave everything he produced to their friends, families, and neighbors. And everyone they gave it to kept asking for more.
They both knew business, design, and the outcome of their journey. They both started to realize that they were making something truly special, and now they were actually making their journey tangible. They knew exactly what they had to do.
Seek North is all about the ‘booch, but it’s not all about the kombucha. In reality, it’s a product made by two people who love the serenity of nature and the NYC hustle equally. They are committed to themselves in health, committed to each other, and they share their success with others as much as they possibly can. They have nothing to hide, and they have little time for dwelling on what they “can’t” do. They aren’t here to give up.
Their kombucha was not only born out of intent research and experimentation, but also their shared fortitude of heart, even in times of struggle and pain. They’re committed to the fight against Lyme disease and have partnered with Global Lyme Alliance. A portion of their proceeds go directly to GLA.
Philippe and Julian live by example, and they want everybody whose lives they touch to find the same strength, drive, passion, and love for life. Their kombucha is an offering, a way to tell their story through a truly living, healing, and always changing essence that never stops giving. Like life itself, this beverage isn’t always what it seems, and it eludes easy definitions.. If they indeed wanted to bottle their story up, kombucha would have always been the most fitting way to do so.
Kinder kombucha because they’re here to inspire you!