Moreen is an accountant and makes kombucha
Moreen Leisen is an accountant at Seefried Industrial Properties, Inc. who fell in love with making Kombucha after talking to someone at work about how she liked it! Moreen is a listener of The Green Apple Podcast and reached out to John because she wanted to share her story of finding her passion and how it affects her career as an accountant!
• How a colleague got Moreen into making kombucha
• Why she feels it is important to share your passions in the workplace
• Applying her kombucha making skills in the office
• Why she feels it is on the organization to influence the workplace culture
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Pictures of the kombucha process
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Welcome to Episode 184 of the Green Apple Podcast. This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. Just by talking about this and sharing this with people in the office and around them, it makes them stand out like a green apple in kind of a boring red apple world.
To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and.” As in my guest, Moreen Leisen, is an accountant “and” makes Kombucha, which are two things that most people wouldn’t really put together.
But first, I’ve got a quick favor to ask, if you like to show and or listening on iTunes or your favorite android app, don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week.
This is week is no different with my guest, Moreen Leisen. She’s a senior financial analyst at Anthem in Atlanta. This is going to be so much fun, Moreen. I’m so excited to have you be a part of the Green Apple Podcast.
Moreen: Great. Thank you. Thank you, John.
John: No. Absolutely. I loved to how you reached out to me. You’re a listener of the show. You were like, “Hey, I want to share my story” because I haven’t had anyone on who’s made Kombucha and likes typical things. It’s about time, right?
Moreen: It’s a lot of fun.
John: Yeah. It is. Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Since you already know the drill, we start out with the 17 rapid fire questions. Get to know Moreen on another level here. Right out of the gate. I’ll ask you a pretty easy one. What’s your favorite color?
John: Nice. Okay. How about a least favorite color?
Moreen: I hate anything that’s pastel.
John: Oh, okay. Right. Yeah. Not very vibrant. That makes sense. How about do you prefer more chocolate or vanilla?
Moreen: Chocolate. I love anything that’s chocolate.
John: Anything chocolate, yeah. How about do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Moreen: Well, I guess, he’s pretty old. He’s Tim Robbins. I really like his acting.
John: Oh, yeah. He’s not that old. But yeah, Tim Robbins is great. Yeah, absolutely. He was in Shawshank Redemption, right?
John: Yeah, okay. All right. Yeah. He’s great. Really good. How about when it comes to writing? Pens or pencils?
John: Okay. Very good. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
Moreen: As long as it’s not lukewarm, I think it would be fine.
John: Okay. So either one that works. And chocolate. Hot chocolate, cold chocolate, we’re good. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Moreen: I love puzzles.
John: Oh, so just all of them. Any and all. I like it. Good answer. How about movies? Star Wars or Star Trek?
Moreen: I grew up with two brothers who watch Star Trek every single episode. I’ve been kind of made to watch them. I think I will go with Star Trek.
John: Okay. It sounds almost like it’s torture. How about when it goes to your computer? PC or a Mac?
Moreen: Either. I have them. I just recently got a Mac for Christmas. I really don’t find it very different from a PC. I would say either/or.
John: Impressive. All right. How about do you have a favorite ice cream flavor?
Moreen: My favorite ice cream is moose tracks.
John: Oh, moose tracks. Good answer. Yeah. How about cats or dogs?
Moreen: I have a dog. I have a very tiny cattle dog. I would say dogs. They are the best.
John: Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Moreen: I’m an early bird.
John: Oh, okay. All right. Now, I have to ask since you’re an accountant, balance sheet or income statement?
Moreen: Balance sheet.
John: Oh, okay. How about do you have a favorite Disney character?
Moreen: I love Mulan.
John: Oh, okay. Yeah. That’s an interesting — I haven’t heard that answer before. Interesting. This is an important one. We got three more. Toilet paper roll, over or under?
John: Under. Okay. All right. How about do you have a favorite number?
Moreen: Nine. Nine is my favorite number.
John: Nine. Is there a reason why?
Moreen: Oh, it’s a pretty long story. When I worked in Germany quite a long time ago, I had to write a lot of numbers. I worked in an accounting firm. Nine is written different in Germany. It almost looked like a G. For some reason, it just stuck in my head. I always write the nine like a G. Well, it’s something strange. But yeah, I like nine.
John: Yeah. I like it. No, that’s cool. That’s cool because it’s just one motion then as opposed to like a circle having to stop and bring the line there. That makes sense. You start at the bottom or you start at the top. But it’s one motion.
Let’s jump into making Kombucha which is crazy cool, something that I didn’t even know existed until probably like four years ago. How did you get into making it yourself?
Moreen: Well, I came from a family where we do a lot of things ourselves. My origin is I’m from Singapore. My parents used to make everything themselves. They even make coconut oil themselves. They would grind a coconut, fry it until the oil comes. They would grind the spices themselves. We came from a family that it’s a do-it-yourself family.
Coming here I went to a store and I bought a bottle of Kombucha. It was just so amazing. Unfortunately, it was quite pricey too. Maybe five bucks or something. I was thinking it would be great if I was able to make it myself. That’s how the idea came up. That’s how I started to research it and started to do it myself.
John: Yeah. Good for you. That’s really cool. This was probably before the internet or early part of the internet?
John: It was recently?
Moreen: Recently, yeah.
John: Oh, wow. When did you come to the US?
Moreen: Twenty years ago, so a long time.
John: Okay. All right. But then you just bought the bottle of Kombucha. You just learned about it just the same as me.
John: All right. Good. I was thinking, because I was like, oh, I’ve never heard of this stuff. Has it been around forever? I guess not. If you just found about it too, that’s great. You just researched and were like, “You know what? I could do this.”
Moreen: Yes. A colleague of mine was doing Kombucha at that time and he had a scoby. Scoby is like a culture that you need — or like a mother culture that you need to make Kombucha. He gave me his scoby. That’s how I started making my own.
John: That’s fantastic. Now, you’re able to use that yourself and build off of each other, I guess?
Moreen: Yeah. I’m able to use it myself and multiplying many, many times to be able to give it away to many people.
John: That’s cool too. A colleague actually gave it to you to start. You had this conversation in the office then.
Moreen: Right. I did. It was a water cooler conversation.
John: Wow. That’s great. That’s so cool. Instead of the weather and gas prices, you guys were talking about sharing scoby for making Kombucha. That’s great. That’s really cool. Was it because this colleague had talked about making their own Kombucha prior to that?
Moreen: No. It was just because I love to drink tea a lot. Kombucha is actually a fermented tea, is a probiotic fermented tea. My passion is drinking tea. I drink hot tea almost all the time at work. I have a tea pot and walk around with it everywhere.
John: I love it. That’s awesome. That’s great. Then they were just talking to you about it and then you’re like, “Yeah. I’m thinking about making some Kombucha.”
Moreen: Yeah. The idea just sparked. Oh, yeah. This is very fantastic. I can do it myself.
John: Yeah. I think that that’s neat that you had a colleague that was doing the same thing. Do you feel like the relationship with that colleague was a little bit different than the relationship with everyone else in the office?
Moreen: You’re right. Yes. It was different because it was more personal. It was easy to interact with him.
John: Yeah. Do you guys like share a recipe? Is there a recipe to it?
Moreen: Yeah. There is a recipe. There are different recipes too. You can flavor Kombucha anyway you want it, you can use. There are tons of recipes. But the one I really like is the one that you use sugarcane juice and you use a little bit of ginger and lemon juice. It gives it a very fizzy texture. That’s my favorite is with sugarcane.
John: Yeah. I figured being in Atlanta, you just pour Coke in it.
Moreen: No. I don’t think that’s going to work.
John: Right. You just killed all the cultures, John. Where did it go? Yeah. That’s fantastic, though. I guess, at any point, did you feel like no one’s going to care about my hobby or passion of wanting to make this or you just found the person that also was interested in it?
Moreen: I found the person who was interested in it but as you know, well, I removed jobs. Now, I have to start from scratch again. I have to find a new person who has a hobby who I can share with, who hopefully does Kombucha that I can share with and enjoy.
John: Yeah, or somebody that’s into yoga or something like that that they’re probably, they at least drink it. Maybe they don’t make it yet but you’ll get that started soon enough.
Is this something that you feel like if it comes up in conversation, you would share it or is it something that you feel — because a lot of people feel like “Well, it has nothing to do with accounting or it has nothing to do with my job, so I’m not going to share it” type of a thing. What are your thoughts on that?
Moreen: I think it’s a very good idea to share it because people feel like you are a human, that you’re not just an accountant, you’re not just doing your work and going home. You spend eight hours a day at work. It would be great if more people are able to open up and able to share their hobbies and just talk about it. But who knows? Maybe someone else has the same ideas like you and you could form a group.
John: Yeah, or at least the two of you at your prior position or when you started making the Kombucha. That’s really neat. Because what are the odds? I don’t know. It seems pretty slim and the magic happened like that. I guess, did it come up in conversation with other people in the office as well?
Moreen: I did give a speech actually on Kombucha. I belong to the Toastmasters Club. I gave a speech on how to make Kombucha to my group. I think they all looked interested. Some of them tried the juice, some of them were still very skeptical because it’s probiotic and then if it’s homemade, it’s different. But I think people enjoy listening to how Kombucha is made and it’s not as difficult as it sounds.
John: Yeah. You’re almost taking me into it right now. I don’t even drink it and I’m going to start making it. It sounds fascinating.
Moreen: I’ll be happy to send you a scoby, John.
John: Wow. All right. We might be able to do this. This is going to be neat. All I know is don’t pour coconut and then that’s step one.
Do you feel like in making Kombucha, following the recipe, what have you, that any of that skill is similar to a skill that you use in the office?
Moreen: Making Kombucha is actually very exact. You have to have the equal proportion of water, tea, sugar. Being an accountant, we are all very detailed. It’s a skill that I kind of polish up.
The other thing I find that making Kombucha is it teaches me patience because you have to brew the tea and you have to wait and wait and wait. It can be three to four weeks until it actually ferments and actually forms and actually becomes drinkable. Patience is something that it has taught me.
John: Right. That definitely comes in handy in the office. That’s for sure. Because sometimes, it takes three to four weeks for something to ferment in the office as well.
Moreen: That’s true.
John: That’s really cool. I think that’s so neat. You, also, I know when we talked earlier, you talked about pickling as well. Is that also just from your roots, from your family?
Moreen: My family did do pickles. We did a lot because we did mango pickles. You know, the Indian mango pickles?
John: Oh, yeah.
Moreen: I guess, my roots did come from my family, I should say.
John: I eat pickles but I don’t really know anything else besides that. Obviously, cucumbers, but do you pickle other things as well?
Moreen: You can pickle almost any vegetable. I’ve pickled okra. I’m not sure whether you’re familiar with okra.
John: Oh, yeah. Okra. Yeah, sure. Definitely, a southern thing.
Moreen: Cabbage and zucchini and lemons. You can pickle any vegetable that you can find. You can do a pickle in it.
John: Wow. Okay. That’s fascinating. Is there one that you prefer the most?
Moreen: I actually love okra pickles because they’re so crunchy and it’s just delicious.
John: Yeah. Maybe that’s one way I’d eat a Brussels sprout, maybe if we pickled it, I’m not sure. That’s neat. That’s something that clearly also takes patience in the same way as making Kombucha. That’s really neat.
Do you grow the things that you pickle or is it more of go to the grocery store, buy them, and then bring them home?
Moreen: Well, I have a garden in the backyard. I’ve tried growing vegetables but I have a very playful dog. Every time she sees me in the garden trying to grow my vegetables, the next morning when I come back, it’s all dug out. It’s very hard to convince her not to come up in my garden. I think she just targets the area.
John: That’s so funny. She thinks it’s a game. It’s like, this isn’t even hard. You’re putting them all right here. This isn’t even hard. There’s the whole rest of the yard you could hide these things in. That’s really funny. It makes it a lot easier just to go to the store and buy it and come back. Yeah, for sure.
I guess, before you got into making Kombucha, or pickling, or things like that, was there something else that you would talk about in the office with co-workers or was this kind of the thing that was able to crack it open to create those relationships?
Moreen: One thing I also enjoy doing is walking. I feel that you need to take a break during your work hours. You need to just get out, breathe in some fresh air and relax. I’ve walked with a few of my colleagues. I’ve really encouraged them to come walk with me. I find that getting out of the office clears your mind, gives you a new perspective of what you need to tackle when you get back to the office. That’s what I really enjoy.
John: Yeah. That’s something that you’re able to rally other people to join you?
Moreen: Yes, of course. Sometimes, I have to twist their hand to come to come with me. But yes, I am able to. I was in the Atlanta Heart Walk and we had walks every single day when we would just walk a mile back and forth. I was leading that. That was very, very fun.
John: That’s great. Yeah. Do you feel like conversation and relationships change when you get out of the office?
Moreen: It does dramatically. It makes so much easier to work with someone when you deal with them outside the office. You understand the person better, the way the person speaks, the way the brain works of a person.
John: Yeah. Because it’s always so fascinating to me when you work around someone for a month or two and then all of a sudden there’s like a happy hour or you run into him outside of work and it’s a totally different person. It’s like, “Who are you? What’s going on?” That’s so weird to me. I don’t know why we do that, but that’s always been the case for a lot of people. I guess, I was just too dumb to know the difference that you’re supposed to — that people don’t. But it feels exhausting if you’re not just authentic.
Moreen: Just in the office, yeah.
John: Yeah. All the time. That’s great how you’re able to take it outside the office to actually create those relationships and then when you come back inside, then not much has changed from when you were on that walk. You get to know people a lot better.
I guess, one question that I like to ask people and just ponder on is when it comes to creating a culture where it’s really cool to share these outside of work passions and it’s okay to have that water cooler talk about making Kombucha, how much is it on the organization to say it’s okay? How much is it on the individual to just kind of plow their own path?
Moreen: I believe the culture of the organization has to be flexible. The company has to be open enough so that they accept that we are actually individuals that come to work not just we’re machines or we’re not just robots. They’re supposed to be a work-life balance. That’s what the company has to understand.
John: Yeah. Because they hired all of you, Moreen, not just your accounting part. The accounting part of you is such a small percentage of who you really are. By having these outside of work passions and interests and going for walks and things like this, I feel like that helps keep the work side of you from consuming all of you.
Moreen: That’s definitely true.
John: Right. Obviously, one pays the bills. You’re not selling Kombucha to pay your mortgage. But it will be cool if you did. I think that that’s really neat. I think that’s awesome.
Do you have words of encouragement to people listening? Maybe there’s some fellow picklers out there. I’m not even sure if that’s a word but I just made it up, or people that make Kombucha that think that, “Well, no one at work’s going to care” type of thing.
Moreen: Well, I think my word of encouragement would be just start small. Open up a conversation. Firstly say, how are you? Then just be open to listen to someone talking and just ask about their hobbies and find out more about the individual because most people, love to talk and they love to be listened to. I think that’s something that people should do more.
John: No, I love it. I love that start small. You’re not shouting it from the rooftops and interrupting everyone’s day. It’s just having your own Kombucha on your desk or it’s sharing pictures of something that you love to do or asking people to join you on a walk, something that’s very simple and very small and then before you know it, it grows into something bigger. That’s really neat. Really neat.
Well, before I wrap this up. It’s only fair that I turn the tables and allow you to rapid fire question me. I know you have a couple ready. Whenever you’re ready, let it rip.
Moreen: Okay. What is your pet peeve?
John: My pet peeve. I have so many pet peeves. We could do a whole podcast on that. I guess, my newest pet peeve has got to be it happens in airports now more frequently and it’s people that listen to videos on their phones with no headphones.
Max volume. I don’t want to listen to your video and neither does everyone else sitting in our section getting on this plane. I actually want to get some cheap headphones like earbuds, so then the next time that happens, I can just give them a set and just play happy birthday. There you go.
Moreen: That’s fun.
John: That’s one of my pet peeves, for sure.
Moreen: The second question is, what three things do you always have in your fridge?
John: Three things that are always in my fridge? That’s going to be ice cream. Are we counting freezer? Does that count?
Moreen: Yeah, sure. We can add that.
John: Okay. All right. Ice cream, strawberry jam, and I guess, whole milk actually. We’ll go with those three. It sounds like I’m getting ready to have a heart attack and diabetes.
Moreen: What inspired you to be independent? Also, your website says, a recovering CPA. Can you elaborate on that?
John: Yeah. Sure. Well, I graduated at The University of Notre Dame and was in Big Four, passed the CPA exam, was in accounting and all that, went to industry for a while before leaving all that to become a comedian and a speaker.
The recovering part is just that I was a CPA but I’m not anymore. Basically, I’m trying to just make it better for everybody. When the people see the title, they just know that something’s a little bit off with this guy sort of a thing.
Moreen: I see, I see. Okay.
John: Yeah. To be independent, I guess, I grew up moving a lot. My dad was in the military in the air force. We moved every two or three years. You just really start to get more, I guess, independent that way just because you’re starting over all the time. You’re comfortable being uncomfortable, I guess, is the phrase.
Moreen: I see.
John: Do you have one more?
Moreen: Oh, yeah. Sure. Well, this one is a very personal question, John. I think all the girls in the West Coast are probably listening to this. Do you have a significant other?
John: Yes, I do as a matter of fact. I’m actually engaged and going to be married in June.
John: Yeah. Thank you. I can’t believe she said yes either.
There we go, Moreen. Well, thank you so much for taking time to be a part of the Green Apple Podcast. This was really fantastic.
Moreen: Thank you. Thank you very much, John. Thank you for having me on this show.
John: If you’d like to see some pictures of Moreen or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. While you’re on the page, click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. It’ll help for the book that I’m launching very soon.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends, so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread which is to go out and be a green apple.