Tina Chen, 28, describes herself as a “solopreneur.” She is the founder of HumaniTea, a range of vegan milk tea drinks.
She started the company in London in December 2018, and the business has grown steadily, despite the pandemic. She has recently started producing her product after a successful crowdfunding campaign and has sold more than 5,000 drinks.
This year she takes on her first two employees through the government’s Kickstart scheme.
But along the way, she has come close to burnout, and she warns that things can get tricky, especially when you’re starting on your own.
The idea for Tina’s product stemmed from her Asian-American heritage. Tina was born in Taiwan, but her family moved to Los Angeles when she was four.
In Taiwan, her family used to take bubble tea – a sweet drink that combines flavoured tea, milk, and tapioca pearls that are sucked up through an extra-large straw – and the glass was also widespread in the Taiwanese community in California.
She went on to do an exchange year in London, giving her a taste for the city, which she made her home after doing an MBA at Imperial College.
While in the UK, she noticed plenty of coffee lattes for sale in supermarkets, but there appeared to be a gap in the market for tea equivalents. She wondered if she could brew a version of her favorite childhood drink that was low in sugar and used vegan milk, a concept that was gaining popularity.
Since she had no background in the food industry, she began experimenting with recipes she found online in her home kitchen.
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