A typical Lehigh student’s resume may include positions such as club president, orientation leader or TRAC fellow. But two Lehigh students will soon have something new to add to theirs — small business owner.
YoBo, a bubble tea shop opening next week on West Fourth Street, is owned and operated by Kang Xu, ’18, and Yoyo Wu, ’18.
The duo has combined its cultural experiences to become co-owners of the shop at 7 W. Fourth St. Wu said they came up with the idea in December, and by January, they were already renting a space. Along the way they said they’ve learned a lot about how to develop an idea into an actual business.
“I usually have a lot of plans, but I don’t know how to act,” Wu said. “Now I do have the abilities to convert all of my business plans to actual action. This is a learning process.”
The two students had many reasons for wanting to open the shop. For Xu, it was a cross between culture and schooling.
Xu is from Beijing and loves the authentic tea in his city. He said one of his main reasons for wanting to open this shop was to spread this culture to the United States. He is also an accounting major, and hopes that once he learns the ropes of how to run a small company here, he will be able to have his own start-up company four or five years down the road.
Wu also feels this company helps her apply what she learns in school to the real world.
“It encouraged me to think more from a business perspective in class,” Wu said. “Before, I wouldn’t ask questions like, ‘How could a business have this problem?’”
They said taking on a company in South Bethlehem took a lot of work. However, Xu and Wu haven’t let it affect their schooling.
Xu will be graduating this spring, having completed three years at Lehigh. He said this company hasn’t affected his academics because the main part of the business plan took effect during the summer. Also, when trips to New York need to be made for inventory, they make the trips on the weekends.
Wu feels this company has actually helped her with her time management, studying skills and school work.
“Most of the time, like for little stuff, I’ll write it down on the paper in my planner,” Wu said. “And so I can do it if I have time, like ‘I have 10 minutes in the break, I’ll just call this contractor’ and that sort of stuff,” Wu said. “Like, ‘I have a half an hour I’ll just go to Lowe’s and grab something and come back.’ And it’s not that I use my time for business and then it affects my school time. I think doing the business helped me to improve my resource ability like what I need, and self-learning.”
They said converting what was once an office space into their bubble tea shop took a lot of work. After finding the location, Xu and Wu had to then go to city hall for registration and needed to get permits such as health and safety, plumbing and electricity. They also had to meet with a contractor to help make renovations and go to New York to find the ingredient inventories.
“It’s been smooth sailing so far,” Wu said. “It is just hard to schedule during the school days and the contractors usually work at the same time. It would have been faster if we were not in school, but we always put school first.”
Xu and Wu wanted to put their shop close enough to the university, as they hope to target Lehigh students as customers. However, they want to include the Bethlehem community as well.
Esther Pak, ’18, said she will frequent the store and believes that because it is run by Lehigh students, it will be well-catered to them.
“Because it is being run by Lehigh students, it would be a safe place for Lehigh students to study,” Pak said. “As the owners, they would be very understanding of whatever the situation may be, whether it be a quiet place or a place to just hang out and be around their Lehigh students. At the same time, it is open to the public and the Bethlehem community, and I think one of their goals is to help spread appreciation of bubble tea to not just Lehigh students, but the Bethlehem community.”
Xu said the main purpose is not to just have a bubble tea shop, but to have a place for students to study, have fun, talk or even go on a date.
Eventually, Xu and Wu want someone to take over YoBo once they both graduate.
“We want someone to take over and just keep the Lehigh culture,” Xu said. “Just a place that students set up and want other students to study and enjoy their life on campus.”