By: Lexie Newhouse
The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute (ENI) sat down with Media Entrepreneurship student and recipient of the 2019 Frances Wood Wilson Foundation Scholarship, Elizabeth Kim, to learn more about her popup business Softea and how she balances being a student and businessowner.
Share more about your business.
Softea is a mobile matcha and bubble tea cart where we use quality ingredients and host pop-up events in and around Atlanta. I co-founded the business with my sister, but Softtea was really an idea that she gave birth to. The company is still relatively young as we’ll be hitting our one-year mark at the end of the month. We wanted to build a company that sold bubble tea and matcha drinks that use ingredients that are gluten-free, vegan-friendly, as well as all natural and organic. Since bubble tea is oftentimes created with unhealthy ingredients, we wanted to create a solution-based business where people who have various dietary needs can still enjoy our beverages. The ingredients are what make the company.
What continues to inspire Softea to serve quality products?
Our mission is to bring community and family together to create memories and picture-perfect moments over our quality bubble tea and matcha. We’re all about hand-crafting and customizing our tea to our customer’s liking. We want to be accommodating, be a part of the community and be invested in the culture of Atlanta. It’s really about living a healthy lifestyle and consuming things that are good for our bodies.
What was your most rewarding popup event?
The most rewarding event was the Braves Chop Fest with DressUp boutique at The Battery. When I was 14 years old, I really wanted to pursue fashion. I was obsessed with DressUp boutique and how they expanded their business so rapidly and successfully. I loved and adored the business. Then the fact they brought in me, my sister and our cart into their business for this event was personally very rewarding.
What was your favorite popup event?
Atlanta Member’s Mart! ATL Girl Gang hosts a member’s mart where local vendors come together, sell their products and network with other local Atlanta women business owners. It was my favorite popup because I got to meet so many people. Our cousins also tagged along with my sister and I for the event. It was really all hands-on deck and having my family there just made it even more meaningful.
What is it like cofounding a company with your sister?
It’s actually very interesting. My sister and I have polar opposite personalities and are seven years apart. Softea really brought our relationship to a new level because our minds and personalities complement each other. A lot of times my sister will focus on operations and financials, where I’ll focus on the marketing, branding and networking. Since we are a popup company, I get to go out and talk with potential partners to build that initial relationship, then my sister finalizes all the details. It’s great having complementing personalities in a business.
What advice can you offer on selecting a business partner or cofounder?
The best way to find a partner is to look for somebody that has the same goal in mind but has different skills to complement your own. Having that same level of passion can better ensure that you are on the same page, same goal and same objective for the company. Having different individual strengths will allow for different perspectives and approaches to finding solutions.
How does Softea weave into your Georgia State story?
I started the business after entering Georgia State. I grew up with entrepreneurial parents, and it was always engraved that I would open a business or do some sort of startup. I choose Georgia State specifically because of the Media Entrepreneurship program. I thought it was absolutely fascinating to be in the heart of Atlanta and attend a school integrated in to the downtown business district. It’s the perfect environment for networking, connecting and creating.
Describe more about your entrepreneurial experience at Georgia State.
I took a Creative Media course (CMIS 4000) with Elizabeth Strickler, who’s incredible. This class allowed me to really thrive as a full-time student and an entrepreneur, especially since my classmates are my target market. I learned new ways to improve my product with my target market literally around me. I learned new business concepts that I can immediately apply to my business. It’s all about developing the product, testing it on my classmates, receiving their feedback, then improving the product even more.
You recently received the Frances Wood Wilson Foundation Scholarship that is designed to support Entrepreneurship & Innovation Scholars. Share more about that.
My professor mentioned the scholarship to the class and posted it to iCollege. Essentially for me to go to school, I have to find scholarships, so I apply to as many as I can. When I saw the scholarship, I just felt so much peace – I felt like God was with me. In my application, I talked about balancing being a student and an entrepreneur and what challenges it can present. I was really blessed and fortunate enough to receive it.
What sort of challenges do you encounter while balancing being a student-entrepreneur?
The biggest challenge is finding balance. I have to focus on school and work and I’m still only 19. I’m going to sound so “19” – But I love being social, hanging out with friends and hanging out with family – Family means a lot to me. I really learned the importance of discipline. Disciplining myself to focus on schoolwork and focus on Softea by relating Softea to my schoolwork. Everything I’m doing in school, I just immediately apply it to Softea.
What advice can you offer to student-entrepreneurs trying to overcome similar challenges?
My biggest advice is three parts. One, believe and have faith. Have faith that you are able to do it. Find hope and believe in what you are hoping for. Two, go forward with passion and grit, do not take “no” for an answer. And three, genuinely be kind and encouraging. I realized the greatest tool in networking and developing relationships is just to be kind and encouraging. When you are encouraging to people, you bring out and see the potential in them, thus encouraging them to feel that potential in themselves.
Where would be your dream popup event?
Inside of Ponce City Market. We’ve been blessed to be offered a few times to do popups there, but unfortunately timing-wise, it hasn’t worked out. It is in the works though, so hopefully we’ll get in there soon. My dream popup would be to ultimately have a seasonal booth or space where we can bring our cart, decorate it and actually have a store front. I don’t know if it’s really realistic, but it’s fun to dream about expanding Softea.
Photos provided by Softea