November 26, 2013 | Borough of Manhattan Community College
“There is a large warehouse-like building in Brooklyn called ‘Industry City’, which used to be a factory but has been completely renovated,” says Queens resident Soomee Suh. “Earlier in the year, my business partner Chantha Uy and I thought, ‘This is the perfect place to launch our business.'”
And they did.
This fall, Ninja Bubble Tea officially opened its doors inside of Industry City. An open, airy, storefront, Soomee explains what bubble tea is, and how it works.
“Bubble tea originated in Taiwan and is basically a dessert you can drink. After the tea is vigorously shaken in a special machine, a layer of foam forms on the top, and you can drink the tea cold or warm,” she says. “At our store, we offer the teas in various degrees of sweetness, and flavors include Lychee, Green tea, Black tea, and more.” The flavors are enhanced with little chewy, tapioca/honey balls that float around the drink.
Adds Suh: “I find regular coffee too acidic, and I love sweets. Chantha and I always wanted to start a business together, which is how Ninja Bubble Tea came about.”
In 2011, the friends tried to launch a gummy bear company, but business didn’t take off, and they decided to rebrand and try again.
“I’ve had this Bubble tea store idea in my head for over a year,” says Suh. “It’s been fun designing different ways to enjoy tea, and we’re working on an eclectic food menu as well.”
She adds: “I came up with the name ‘Ninja Bubble Tea’ because when drinking, the tapioca balls ‘surprise you’ in your mouth like a ninja, and I thought, ‘Hey! What a great name for the store.'”
Back to BMCC
Suh and Uy have an interesting back story. Friends who met in an accounting class at BMCC in the 90’s, they are both registered nurses, and balance their nursing jobs with the management of Ninja Bubble Tea.
Suh explains that she and Uy were concerned about finding stable jobs post-9/11, which led them into the nursing field.
Besides, working for a few years as full-time nurses granted them time to research entrepreneurships and generate revenue.
Suh graduated from BMCC in 2000 with a Business Administration degree, and obtained a nursing degree from a vocational school on Long Island. When she’s not at the storefront, she works as a pediatric nurse.
Uy graduated from BMCC in 2001—also with a degree in Business Administration—took some nursing pre-requisite classes at BMCC, then pursued nursing at Long Island University Brooklyn. She currently works as a family/homecare nurse.
“BMCC was the foundation for my first college experience,” Uy recalls. “It is priceless when a college can offer you professional growth and opportunity with a dose of reality. Plus, because of BMCC, I also walked away with a lifelong friend and business partner.”
Adds Suh: “Uy and I have been friends since we were teenagers and I wouldn’t want to open a business with anyone else.”
Around the clock
It was absolutely hard to balance our nursing jobs with the opening of Ninja Bubble Tea,” says Suh, adding that they have assistance from another friend who helps operate the business but isn’t an owner. “We worked around the clock.”
Besides taking business courses at a college like BMCC, Suh advises aspiring business owners to take advantage of mentoring services. In the planning stages, the entrepreneurs sought career guidance from staffers at Score and the U.S. Small Business Administration, which helped them shape their business and marketing plan.
Says Uy: “The idea of owning your own business is wonderful, but it also requires true patience, dedication to your goals, and more importantly, you can’t give up when faced with obstacles.”
Stop by, say hi
Ninja Bubble Tea’s open space has artwork on the walls and the owners are inviting anyone interested in hosting a class at the storefront to inquire.
“We want to utilize our space to the fullest, whether you want to host an art class or poetry reading here one day, or display your work on the walls,” says Suh, adding, “And we really want BMCC students to stop by and say hello—we’d love to meet you!”
The official Facebook page for Ninja Bubble Tea is here.