The Good, Bad & Ugly: Devin Li with Waco Cha
Have you ever felt that owning a small business has hidden secrets? We are digging into the nitty gritty of entrepreneurship with local business owners to find out the answers. Devin Li, entrepreneur and owner of Waco Cha, gave us the inside scoop of the good of owning a business.
Is there anything that has kept you from achieving your goals?
Fear of failure is the #1 thing that has been a barrier I’ve had to overcome throughout the business process. Self-doubt has kept me from stepping out. I had a lot of self-doubt regarding whether or not people would like the products. I was not sure if bubble milk tea would be received well by the community because of it being lesser known. And ultimately, the fear of not having the “right credentials” due to being a self-taught home chef. I remember the day before my first cooking demo at the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market this past spring. I initially called the event “Cooking Demo with Devin Li” in the Instagram marketing post. I realized fear prevented me from putting down “Cooking Demo with Chef Li” due to not having formal training as a chef. Launching a business is an act of vulnerability and a risk. Focusing on one achievable task each day helps to make this process less overwhelming. When I first began exploring bubble milk tea, I had to break it down and just make a cup of tea a day. Eventually that cup moved to 20 cups for a small group. A gallon. And now the farmers market each week. Achievable short term goals help make the fear less overwhelming. But fear will still be there because every successful step you make opens up increased opportunities.
What sparked the fire inspiring you to start Waco Cha?
Our Chinese and Taiwanese culture and ethnic background inspires us and gives us the passion for the food and drinks we make. Our desire to share our culture to the Waco community has been an inspiration throughout this process. We live in a society that is increasingly divided between people. We have a passion for bridging that divide and creating a space for people to come together at the table through delicious food. A few months ago, I had a dream in which people were not invited to sit at the dinner table because of their cultural and language differences. But as followers of Jesus, we believe and seek to live out the truth that God’s table is open to all people and is larger than anything we can possibly imagine.
What have you learned about managing employees?
People are your greatest assets. We realized early on that we simply cannot sell any products or run a business without other people. We need collaboration and we need to invest in our employees. As a business owner, it is essential to cast a clear vision to your employees so they can be part of something bigger than themselves. We want our employees to see that we are selling more than just a cup of tea. Part of this is living out the values we adhere to as a business through the ways we manage and treat employees. So if we say that Waco Cha values transparency in ingredients, are we also valuing transparency in the ways we lead and manage employees? An example of this is calling out the strengths of employees on the job and providing immediate constructive feedback during times when there needs to be improvement. This is something we are still seeking to live out in Waco Cha since we are a newer organization however is something that we have learned so far.