Steve Smith and Philip Price launched Boba Shack on Cavendish Street on Saturday and believe their venture is the first of its kind in a Derbyshire town.
Philip said: “My daughter, Jessica, who is 14, has over the past year managed to persuade me and her sister on numerous occasions to drive her all the way to Meadowhall to get bubble tea. You can buy it in Sheffield and Nottingham but as far as I know there is nowhere in between.
"We’re the talk of the town with the younger generation – we got 500 to 600 followers on Facebook from our first post."
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Steve and Philip are hoping to tap into various markets, including the 5,000 full-time students and 15,000 part-time learners who attend Chesterfield College, office workers and people attending hair salon or nail bar appointments.
For the uninitiated, bubble tea is a non-alcoholic beverage which originated in Taiwan and has soared in popularity in UK cities in recent years.
Philip said: “Fundamentally, it’s a cocktail for kids.
“You can choose a fruit tea, which is either an assam black or jasmine green, a milk tea with dairy, almond or soya milk, or a coffee. Then you choose flavourings, we have seventeen flavours including mango, vanilla and watermelon – it’s like a pick and mix and the combinations are endless. It comes with the brown tapioca pearls (boba) that we have to cook and there are popping bobas which are balls filled with intense fruit juice. It’s served with a big fat 12mm straw so you can suck up the balls.There are also jellies, which are made from coconut, in a range of flavours including apple, grape, lycee, and these little bits sit at the bottom.”
Steve and Philip had been thinking about opening a bubble tea outlet for about a year but only made the decision to go ahead five weeks ago.
Philip, 50, said: “We put some money together, looked for some premises and found this fantastic spot on the corner of Cavendish Street. It had been vacant for a while, was an empty shell and had no plumbing or water.”
The pair spent a fortnight working on the building to get it ship-shape for its launch and estimate to have kept costs down to £10,000 by doing the work themselves. Philip said: “The fitting, the design, the branding, the website have all been done by Steve and me.
"We’ll get the first business up and running to see how it works. We would happily have 20 or 30 shops in small towns with a population of about 100,000 if we can set up at a low enough cost.”
The friends’ enterprising spirit flourished during the pandemic when they ran a market stall in Chesterfield. Philip said: “We did kettles and vacuum cleaners and upcycled stuff. We’d buy ten broken ones, fix them and end up with six that worked. It was very much a sideline to get us out of the house. We’d been thinking about doing something more committed and bubble tea was on that list and gradually made its way to the top.”
Steve, 59, who lives in Chesterfield and is married to Michelle, has previous business experience as a partner in a bus company. Raised in Grassmoor, he has worked as a miner, taxi driver and spin instructor at Brampton Manor.
Philip has a background in marketing and software development. He lives in Newbold and previously resided in Cyprus where he met his wife Divina.
Steve’s teenage stepdaughter Mary Jane and Philip’s daughter, Jessica, will be helping out at Boba Shack which is open seven days a week, initially from 8am to 8pm.