Customers at bubble tea shops often eagerly wait for their drinks to be made, looking forward to popping a straw in their cup and finally taking a sip of the tasty tea. However, many stores in recent months have eliminated plastic straws and started providing customers with alternatives. Alumnus Peter Chan (’11) came up with his own way for people to enjoy drinking bubble tea in an eco-friendly way.
Chan is a bubble tea enthusiast who grew up drinking the popular beverage while living in Taiwan. He eventually grew his passion and became an owner of Kung Fu Tea in Harrisonburg alongside his business partner and fellow JMU alumnus, Michael Wu (’11). Both Chan and Wu were graduates of the College of Business.
Wu’s business plan for his COB 300 class was to create a bubble tea shop in his hometown of Annandale, Virginia, but it wasn’t possible since a shop had already opened there.
Wu’s plan became a reality years later when he opened his own Kung Fu Tea in Harrisonburg with Chan. He wanted to open his store at the birthplace of his business concept.
At Kung Fu Tea, Chan is in charge of handling the front-end operations. He focuses on building the brand at JMU, hiring and training employees and providing the best customer experience. Wu focuses on back-end tasks like payroll, taxes and corporate communications.
While Chan still works as an owner at Kung Fu Tea, he now has a separate business. “Bobadachi” is built around a line of metal straws that are reusable and eco-friendly. They come in different colors, including silver, rose gold and rainbow.
Chan’s love for boba influenced his creation of Bobadachi. He has displays of the metal straws at various bubble tea stores, and in exchange, shops get a profit out of each straw sold at that storefront.
With more and more cities beginning to ban plastic straws, Chan believes there’ll be a greater demand for reusable straws, and he’s confident that he started the business at the right time. He realizes that being a businessman comes with challenges, but he’s ready to conquer any obstacle.
“You have to be very tough mentally, and you have to be able to think for yourself,” Chan said. “As an entrepreneur, you really have to learn to self manage and be able to work in an unstructured environment. You really have to be passionate about what you do.”
One of Chan’s first tasks after deciding to start Bobadachi was figuring out what his logo would look like. He turned to his friend, Helen Li, a former graphic designer who still does freelance designs and illustrations.
“We came up with the idea of creating a posse of cute bubble tea characters,” Li said. “I wanted the first character to be memorable, so I designed it with a distinct silhouette, cute features and bright colors.”
While Chan worked on getting Bobadachi up and running, Wu stuck by his friend’s side and supported his personal business venture. He believes that Chan is a strong businessman.
“Nothing beats Peter’s passion for bubble tea and everything affiliated with it,” Wu said. “Peter would stay up all night working on his business plan and strategy. He would do whatever it takes to make it successful.”
Now, Chan’s main focus is to introduce his brand to more people and educate them on the benefits of reusable straws. Chan has his friends help him with promoting his business.
Senior interdisciplinary liberal studies major Janine Lorenzo helps Chan spread the word about Bobadachi. She’s a regular customer at Kung Fu Tea and continues to support Chan’s business endeavors.
“I think it’s a great idea because metal straws are great in helping reduce plastic waste,” Lorenzo said. “It’s eco-friendly, you get a 5% discount on your drink for using it at the Harrisonburg location, and it works just as well, if not better, as the plastic straws they have at Kung Fu Tea.”
Currently, Chan’s metal straws are only found at certain bubble tea shops, but he hopes to expand into an e-commerce model and sell his straws on a digital storefront. He plans to start selling other accessories like cup holders and tumblers, which he thinks will give customers the full bubble tea experience.
“Something important for any job is to be really passionate about what you do,” Chan said. “And for me, I love bubble tea. I love anything bubble tea-related, so this is kind of a perfect fit for me.”