The pandemic forced us all to rethink what’s possible in work and life. One of the industries hit hardest by lockdowns and stay-at-home orders were food, drink and hospitality.
Almost overnight, our favourite venues needed to shut their doors indefinitely. But in this period of transition, entrepreneur Pamela Yip came up with a winning start-up idea: Bubble Tea Club. By launching Australia’s first at-home bubble tea experience, Pam and her team were able to skyrocket to success using the power of social media.
Since then, Bubble Tea Club has earned over 60,000 customers, served more than one million bubble teas, and even raised an impressive AUD$1.6M in a record-breaking equity crowdfunding campaign.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Pam to chat about the rise of Bubble Tea Club, the challenges she’s faced as a female founder and why she’s excited to be leading a marketing agency empowering business owners with the skills they need to grow and scale.
To kick things off, can you give us a quick introduction to yourself and your business, Bubble Tea Club?
“I’ve spent the last decade immersed in marketing, building brands and online communities with experience in agency, corporate and start-up environments. I co-founded Bubble Tea Club and am currently CEO/Co-Founder of VSNRY Digital.
My purpose is to help founders bring their vision to life. I am also particularly invested in supporting Asian founders who are great at what they do but find it hard to market to Western markets without compromising on authenticity.
My curiosity for marketing, community and brand universes has been recognised by META APAC’s vice president (Dan Neary), A Current Affair, Insider Retailer, Business Insider Australia, Apple News Spotlight, Herald Sun and more.
Bubble Tea Club is the leading DIY bubble tea kit for anywhere and anytime. Not only did we cater to the existing bubble tea market, but we also started a new at-home category and introduced bubble tea to those who never had it before.
I had the pleasure of co-founding this business and being a part of building an incredible community, raised over $1.5m and was voted in the Top 20 Coolest Retailers by Inside Retail. All with a young but driven and passionate team!”
What inspired you to create Australia’s first DIY bubble tea kits?
“It was the peak of COVID, April 2020 and restaurants and bubble tea stores were announcing they needed to close. I was a part of a Facebook group called Subtle Asian Traits and as a joke, people were posting that they were selling the ‘last’ bubble tea for $1-3k on eBay. That’s because they didn’t know when would be the next time they can have bubble tea if bubble tea shops closed.
It was wild to me that you couldn’t make it at home yourself. I told my business partner this idea and the next day, they sourced the ingredients from Taiwanese suppliers to make a bubble tea. We were surprised that it tasted so good. I filmed myself making this drink in my living room, posted it online and we went viral!”
What challenges have you faced as a female founder of a startup?
“Compassion, being bubbly and optimistic came across as being naive and not taking things ‘seriously’ enough. People’s perception of a competent leader has been determined by what the media has shown them. In fact, there are statistics that show some voters tend to choose politicians based on their looks when there’s not enough information presented to them.
As someone who is generally positive and smiley, I remember a particular male staff member thinking I didn’t understand ‘how big’ a problem was. In their head, I needed to be negative to show that I understood the problem. In fact, the problem was very much being addressed and resolved.
Hopefully being true to myself means breaking down bias and rewriting narratives. People just need to get used to seeing a compassionate, bubbly and optimistic person doing great things and so they won’t be quick to judge the next compassionate, bubbly and optimistic person.”
What is your advice for women looking to launch their own business or startup?
“Entrepreneurship is the art of constant problem solving and managing self-doubt. You have to be curious and persistent. Make sure you remember why you want to be in business to help you overcome all challenges.
Understand what your values are and what success looks like to you. What do you want to achieve by being in business or running a startup? How important is success, family, friends, career, health, finances etc. to you?
Make sure you learn to balance your time according to your values. If you don’t spend time with what gives you energy (like family), you’ll burn out even if your business is doing really well.
You have 100% of your time to allocate. If you give your business a 100% it’ll grow at 100% but this leaves you at 0% for health, family, friends etc. That works for some founders – like Elon Musk.
If you allocate 20% to family, 20% to friends and 10% to health, that leaves you with 50% on your business. Your business won’t grow as fast as someone who allocates all 100%. But there’s no right or wrong answer. Your family, friends and health is improving at 20/20/10. For me, that’s as important as growing my business.
Don’t burn out. Surround yourself with mentors and peers who are in the same space to hear from their experiences. But also learn to trust your own instincts on whose advice to take!”
What’s next for your career journey in 2022 (and beyond)?
“In my last decade in business, I’ve been constantly asked what my purpose is. I reflected on what were the best moments in business and most fulfilling.
Building and connecting with communities, supporting founders, representing the Asian community, building great brands, making content and building up and mentoring a team. This led me to leave the day-to-day of Bubble Tea Club to pursue VSNRY Digital.
I want to help founders build great brands, connect with communities and to do it with a team of people who find it fulfilling to do so. This is why we help founders bring their visions to life through my marketing agency, VSNRY Digital.
We want to approach marketing agencies differently. Having run an eCommerce business, I understand that start-ups need to be able to adapt their marketing budget to what they need. It didn’t make sense to allocate all your marketing budget to ads and then neglect emails, content creation and more.
We empower founders by training them or their in-house marketing team so that they don’t lose knowledge or power when they stop a service with a third party.
There is no greater feeling than being told by founders that my work helped change their life.”