Hi, my name is Elizabeth, my friends call me Beeli, and in my free time I enjoy solving problems, sometimes through starting businesses.
Here’s a timeline of the most recent venture, Beeli’s Boba.
Step One: Identify A Problem
Starting with a clear problem ensures you don’t attempt to fix something that isn’t broken.
In this case, the problem identified was when ordering bubble tea, no easy way exists to customize boba balls.
Step Two: Think Of A Solution
In the early stages, don’t get caught up with creating a proven solution. An idea is enough.
Here was my proposed solution: 3D print boba balls customized by flavor, texture, or design.
I never 3D printed boba and I never touched a 3D printer during this venture, and that’s OK. When in the experimentation stage, the key is being able to articulate the idea and pivot when necessary. (Note: if I’d limited myself to FIRST owning a 3D printer and having successfully printed 3D boba, none of this would have happened)
Step Three: Identify An Audience
Find the people who are facing the problem you’re trying to solve.
In this case, that audience was boba store owners.
Step Four: Schedule A Meeting
I took two approaches to accomplish this step.
First, I visited 5 stores and tried to meet the owner and get their contact information.
Although walking into these stores and pitching was a great exercise, the store owners were never in so going in person wasn’t very productive.
Second, I pivoted from my previous approach and gathered the contact information by calling the store or finding it on their website. This approach was significantly more efficient.
Than I crafted an email campaign with two steps (because the majority of people don’t reply on the first step) and sent it to ten bubble tea stores.
Of the ten stores emailed, the campaign results were: one bounced, 100% open rate, 44% reply rate and one meeting scheduled.
For the sake of education, I’ve included the replies below (excluding the one that scheduled a meeting):
“It’s not trendy right now and it’s an extra cost. The cost for machine, the cost for storage. We are a tiny boba store, the space is pretty much filled right now. I don’t have extra room for anything else.”
Note: This reply was valuable because it showed that I hadn’t clarified that the proposed structure would be a supplier of boba, and not a 3D printer in store.
“We are franchise store , all supplier need to be provide by franchisor.”
Note: Good information to know, this franchise, like most, lacks autonomy.
“Thanks for reaching out. What are 3D boba balls exactly? You didn’t really have a description so I would like to know what they are first.”
Note: I needed to further specify what 3D boba balls were.
Step Five: Create A Social Media Presence
This was helpful to gather user insights.
Step Six: Create A Slide Deck
I was lucky enough to have the help of my friends, Hope and Connor, while putting this together. (PDF below)
Step Seven: Pitch
Since I didn’t have the ability to print 3D boba, I had to think about the objective of my call. I decide it would be to learn more about his business and build a relationship.
Being transparent that we were in the early stages, and not able to deliver on any orders at the moment, allowed for an honest conversation.
Step Eight: Gather More Insight
In this case that meant going in-person to the store locations.
Seeing the behind the scenes operations of how they prepared boba and ran the store was a phenomenal experience, one I’ll never forget. I’m pretty sure I left that store walking on air.
Also, the owner was gracious enough to let me choose whatever boba drink I wanted, thus the click bait title.
Step Nine: Be Honest
Take an honest look at what you’ve done, do you think that your solution was the right one?
Is this an idea worth continuing to pursue?
Ultimately, I had to evaluate if the benefit of 3D boba was going to outweigh the cost. (My debating years of evaluating situations through a cost benefit analysis continue to pay enormous dividends.)
In the end, I wasn’t convinced the market would allow anything above a $1-2 increase in price for 3D printed boba, therefore the cost of production was too high and I decided not to continue.
To summarize, if you want free boba, start a company about boba.