Juan David’s Newsletter - May 16th, 2023
College Boba: How My Friends and I Made $74.35 in Profit Selling Boba on a $46 Budget
Last week, I ran an experiment on my college campus: I gathered a group of friends and sold boba together.
What follows is an odyssey of our unwavering resourcefulness, ingenious strategies, and delightful dance of tapioca pearls.
College Boba: How My Friends and I Made $74.35 in Profit Selling Boba on a $46 Budget
If you'd like an immersive experience, go into the captivating narrative here.
This is the story of setting up a boba business in 30 minutes with a tasty product and powerful distribution.
I came across a lemonade stand competition tweet. And it got me thinking, why not give it a shot? With finals done and friends available, we have the time and motivation to build and work on something cool.
I suggested the idea to my friend Alex, who is always down for anything, but we didn't finalize anything as he had been busy. Wednesday came and I had no idea I'd be running around selling boba by 4 PM that day. Here's a breakdown of my day:
8:00 AM - Balloon Launch
For fun, Chris and his friend built a balloon that could travel around the world and reach up to 40,000 ft, and they were launching it.
Between debugging and FAA calls, that took most of my morning.
3:00 PM - "we doing boba today?"
Alex reminds me of the boba challenge and I told him to get ready. He's a force of nature (you'll see that later). Now we need a few more hands so I recruited two more friends, Guha, and Annamalai.
We made a quick call to our friend Annamalai, who was getting ready for the gym. I told him the gym will be open forever but this opportunity won't be. The next thing he said was, "Where are you guys?" Next, we called our friend Guha and she was ready and excited to join us.
3:49 PM - Team Assembled
We're a team of four, but we have nothing else. No ingredients, table, signs, or any idea of how to make boba. To be honest, I've never even tasted it! But what we do have is energy and a willingness to move mountains to make the impossible happen.
What is boba? Boba is a tea-based drink that has become popular among young people these days.
4:15 PM - Boba Ingredients
To make boba, we need boba (aka tapioca pearls). But where the hell do we get that thing from? One of us said, "Let's go to a boba shop and get it from there."
GENIUS IDEA so we make our way there. This is a video of us at the Boba shop.
4:29 PM - BOBA SECURED
We bought two boba balls cups and we were ready. We tried to get free straws and we got like 10 (really 20 because we cut them by half).
But now we needed cups, milk, a sign, etc.....We got the boba and we were unstoppable.
4:39 PM - Total Costs
Boba Cups: $20
Cups, Milk, etc: $26.03
Total cost: $46.03
We did not spend a single dime after this. In retrospect, I could have gotten free cups, free milk, and free poster but that would be at least 45 more minutes.
4:40 PM - One More Recruitment
I texted Aaryaman Patel, the cohost of The UIUC Talkshow
A few minutes later, he helped us secure a table!!!
5:08 PM - Distribution
Distribution is way more important than the quality of the boba itself.
So I "borrowed" everybody's phone and started posting Snapchat stories and sending messages to every single one of them. I also posted on the @UIUCFreeFood.
Within a few minutes, people started showing up, and to our surprise, we didn't even have our table set up yet. When I asked one of our customers how she found out about the event, you guessed it, she said, “UIUCFreeFood on Twitter”
5:30 PM - Table, Boba, and Sign Ready
5:40 PM - Giving out Free Bobas and FIRST SALE
We gave away 10 free bobas but we had more than 10 people. Will the people behind end up buying? I had no idea. The answer was YES. But now what? The line was gone within seconds and now we needed to start selling. Distribution should start working now but it might take some time. Where will we find more people? Go person to person in the quad.
5:42 PM - Price Elasticity of Demand
We started at $1.99 instead of $0.99 but we tried selling it to about 10 people but no one would buy. We decided to go back to $0.99 and try to see what people say.
5:44 PM - $0.99 Works or does it?
We brought about 8 more people. We continue trying different prices depending on the customer. A risky endeavor that could upset some customers but it was a big experiment and we were all in.
6:20 PM - People Keep Coming
And we continue making more boba.
6:49 PM- Creative Customer Acquisition
Dances, performances, yelling, and more. We recruited another friend to hold the banner. We really got creative. Wait until you see this video...
7:29 PM - Our Boba Quality
We were so busy trying to sell and get customers that we had not tried our product yet. And to our surprise, it was actually good!
8:06 PM - Endgame
We ran out of milk and people stopped walking by. It was also darker now. We did not want to throw anything away so everyone who contributed got a FREE BOBA.
1. Ask and You Shall Receive: Asking for what you need is key to getting things done. We went to a local boba shop and asked to buy boba, and although it was initially met with confusion, we ended up getting what we needed. Similarly, we asked restaurants for supplies like straws, ice, and gloves, and while some said no, most were willing to help us out. Sometimes, you just have to take the initiative and ask for what you need to make things happen.
2. Ask for Forgiveness, Not Permission: After getting the boba and ingredients, we still needed a table. Buying one wasn't an option, so we headed to the union and picked up a table without asking anyone. We returned it in pristine condition after we were done, and no one seemed to mind. Sometimes, you have to take action without asking permission. If someone gets upset, apologize and move on. But often, people won't even notice, so just go for it.
3. The World is Malleable AF: This operation began with an idea I shared with Alex, which he helped remind me of. We then recruited about ten of our friends who supported us by buying boba and helping out. This goes to show that with an idea, the right people, and the willingness to take action, anything is possible. We found the necessary ingredients and a table, made delicious boba, sold a lot of it, and had a blast. Perhaps we weren't ambitious enough, would we have solved climate change or AGI if we went with the same gusto? Probably.
4. Distribution > product: "First-time founders focus on the product. Second-time founders focus on distribution." One of my goals in 2023 was to become the best in the world in distribution and I've gotten pretty good at it. People don't just buy a product because it's great; they buy it because 1) they want to support you and what you stand for, and because 2) they've seen it everywhere due to an insane distribution strategy. Distribution, distribution, distribution - that's what matters.
Expenses: $20 - Boba Balls $26.03 - Sign, Two Milks, Two Chai Teas, and Cups.
Total Expenses: $46.03
Revenue: $8.44 - Zelle, $2 - Apple Cash, $41.94 - Venmo, and $68 - Cash.
Total Revenue: $120.38
TOTAL PROFIT: Revenue (120.38) - Expenses (46.03) = $74.35
How many customers? We used about 80 cups, which is lower than I thought. However, it's possible that many people had already left school, and maybe the quad wasn't the right place to set up our boba stand.
What will we do with the profit of $74.35? We plan to reinvest it into @UIUCFreeFood
and give away more free food. What's @UIUCFreeFood? A tool that provides free food for thousands of college students. If you're interested in supporting this cause, let's talk. Check out the impact UIUCFreeFood has made in the story here.
👥1. People who like boba will buy it just because: If you are walking around and someone is selling boba to you, and you love boba. You will not resist and you will buy the freaking boba. Nice and simple. These were about 10% of our customers.
👥2. People who like a good deal and will buy anything that sounds like one: 10% of our customers were people who are always looking for a good deal and tend to justify their purchases based on the perceived discount. While they can be difficult to sell to, it's important to explain to them what we are doing and why it's a good deal. However, dealing with these customers can be time-consuming and energy-draining for the amount they end up buying.
👥3. People who like to support: These are nice people. Nice people are still around and would usually support anything that looks like hard work or a good cause. These were about 5%
👥5. More Marketing Strategies:
This energy-filled adventure was a whirlwind, keeping me wide awake as I poured myself into Midwest Hackers and an undisclosed project throughout the night.
I hope you enjoyed this seemingly random adventure. If you’d like to read the more detailed version with more videos, pictures, and other lessons, jump into this link.
Summer is here so there will be a lot of projects, essays, and other interesting things coming!!!!
See you on Sunday,
Juan David Campolargo