Entrepreneur shared insights from her career journey
March 2022 – New Jersey native Diana Ark Chen, founder and CEO of BUBLUV®, virtually joined Drew University’s entrepreneurship class, The Work of Innovation: Creating Organizations That Solve Problems.
Throughout the semester, Drew entrepreneurship students have been tasked with developing a credible business idea that solves a real-world problem and building a 13-slide pitch deck. Some of the startup concepts in the course include product-market fit, market validation, the competitive landscape, feasibility, marketing and scalability.
Adjunct assistant professor Ann Mills brought in Chen, whose Asian-inspired better-for-you food and drink start-up BUBLUV® is getting ready to launch BUBLUV® Bubble Tea in the U.S., to share key insights from her founder journey.
Chen’s decision to become an entrepreneur was a personal one. Her great grandfather came to Hawaii from China and built four businesses after teaching himself English and Hawaiian. Another motivation came from going to Take Your Daughter to Work Day with her mom, where she developed a blueberry-raspberry sports drink. After that experience, she decided that someday she would launch her own product. In college, Chen enjoyed bubble tea, or boba, but found herself drinking less of it due to the calories and high levels of sugar. As a New York City resident, she noticed bubble tea’s broadening appeal and made the decision to launch BUBLUV®.
The many facets of entrepreneurship
With more than 10 years of brand management and digital marketing experience at consumer packaging giants like Unilever and B&G Foods, Chen felt uniquely positioned to disrupt the bubble tea market. Chen told students that one of the biggest challenges of starting BUBLUV® was finding someone to take a chance on her and create the product. She had to identify a co-packer that trusted her. More recent challenges have included navigating the global supply chain.
As a “solopreneur,” she is involved in many different areas like legal, graphic design, procurement, research and development, and quality assurance. Chen also manages her own social media, which encompasses creating content, connecting with people, and actively building out her community.
Researching the market for BUBLUV®
Describing how she thought about the market, Chen said, “Is the market big enough? Is there going to be growth? Do you believe in it, and do you think it’s going to get there? Because no one is going to tell you where it’s going to be. You have to make that call for yourself.”
Chen surveyed 1,000 people about the product concept, flavors, and purchase intent. When the survey indicated sufficient purchase intent, she began working on the business during nights and weekends while still doing her full-time job.
BUBLUV® Bubble Tea launch
Chen cross-referenced menus, looked at the top bubble tea products for different brands, and visited boba shops. She narrowed down the list and tested the products before deciding on three for the launch. She never considered opening retail locations and felt boba home kits could be more convenient for consumers. In thinking about how to make BUBLUV® different from other products already on the market and consumer-friendly, Chen was drawn to the space where she was most passionate—consumer packaged goods.
Words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs
Chen concluded by telling the students that if they have a business idea they’re really passionate about, take the jump.
“Your life is not a dress rehearsal,” she said. “You have one shot, and you just have to go for it. Muster up the courage to try, and if it doesn’t work out, you will have learned something valuable that you can apply to something else. Believe in yourself and take a chance.”