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From Zero to One: Building a Boba Shop is Hard!

A quick introduction is necessary.

My wife and I grew up in the Bay Area, drinking boba or bubble tea every day for what seems like the last 20 years. For us, boba was more than a drink. Walking into a familiar boba shop with a group of friends just felt so familiar, so much like home. We would sip ice cold bubble tea, eat spicy fries, and laugh at crazy Asian music videos with our friends for hours on end. This was the Bay Area culture - moreover, this was the Asian American culture.

Now, fast forward to 2 years ago, when we relocated to the suburbs of Detroit. We found that boba culture was non-existent. It was difficult just to find Asian Americans in general.

One night - after consuming too many plates of bulgogi, drinking too many glasses of wine, and watching too many Crazy Rich Asians and Kim's Convenience reruns - we thought, let's throw conventional wisdom out the window. Let's start our own boba store to share the Asian American and boba culture!

Sounds like a start to a beautiful movie. We are the main characters pushing forward on this heroic journey. That honeymoon phase ended almost immediately.

The world of the small business entrepreneur is a scary place. Everything is a black box. There is no standard place to find the information you need, from health regulations to building regulations to licenses and permits. All of the vendors you work with are other small businesses that do not understand the concept of SLAs, operates on memory (vs. documentation), takes cash equivalents only, and have zero scale -- so crazy expensive prices.

Funny story - a drive-thru headset costs $4,000. The sales rep explained that the exorbitant cost is because the technology is state of the art. How can a technology be state of the art if it has been around for 30 years?

My appreciation and sympathy towards the small business owner has grown by leaps and bounds. The process is really a grind.

However, just like in a good movie, the main characters always push forward. We are eyeing the finish line and can't wait for you all to come and experience our products!

Check out the photos below to share in our journey. We can't wait to meet you all soon.



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Alan Chan
Alan Chan
Oct 18, 2020

Charles, if you're ever looking to build in Houston, Tx I've helped dozens of owners open boba shops here. I have built for 7 Leaves, Gong Cha, Teahouse, Yumcha, and Bubble Egg. #MingConstruction

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