Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Caroline Rusher, 39

A chief yacht stewardess had an idea to start a business when she tried kava.

  • By
  • | 5:00 p.m. October 12, 2023
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Caroline Rusher approached her mentor and sister Jacqueline in 2017 about starting a kava bar.
Caroline Rusher approached her mentor and sister Jacqueline in 2017 about starting a kava bar.
Photo by Mark Wemple
  • Class of 2023
  • Share

When Caroline Rusher says she was drinking too much alcohol, she was also living the high life as chief stewardess for a yacht company.

She saw many great places, from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean.

But Rusher was not happy. Her solution to the problem was not just sobriety but a new drink: kava.

Kava, WebMD says, is "a beverage or extract made from the Piper methysticum plant. In the South Pacific, it's a popular drink that is used in ceremonies for relaxation."

Whereas coffee contains caffeine, which speeds the body up, kava, made from a ground-up root, is thought to slow the brain down, allowing relaxation and sleep. Rusher, who studied at a Canadian science college, had an idea when she tried kava: Start a business.

She approached her mentor, sister Jacqueline, and they worked on a plan, starting in 2017. The plan soon took root, so to speak, and now her business, Kava Culture Kava Bar, has 14 locations, including Tampa, Clearwater, Fort Myers Beach and Port Charlotte. More are on the way.

"Jacqueline brings everything to reality," says Rusher. "She taught me perseverance and that failure is not an option."

The sisters' plan was to open five stores and then franchise. They did it. Yet it was perhaps Rusher's ideas about kava that drove the business to multiple locations. Rusher, a bit of a kava evangelist, believes the kava drink is key to better socialization, and even to help people find sobriety.

Rusher concedes there were challenges in the early days.

"The first years were very rough," says Rusher, who says some people told her she would lose everything on her kava gamble. "But I've always been an early adopter. I see things before the average person does."

Rusher says she believes in her product and has a passion for it.

"I think in a lot of ways, kava saved my life, in early sobriety," says Rusher. "My passion has always been in bringing kava to the people. I think one day there will be a kava bar in most towns in America."


Latest News


Special Offer: Only $1 Per Week For 1 Year!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.
Join thousands of executives who rely on us for insights spanning Tampa Bay to Naples.