Our co-founder Tansu Philip was interviewed by Canvas Rebel. Read the full article here: https://canvasrebel.com/meet-tansu-philip/
We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Tansu Philip a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Tansu, appreciate you joining us today. Let’s kick things off with talking about how you serve the underserved, because in our view this is one of the most important things the small business community does for society – by serving those who the giant corporations ignore, small business helps create a more inclusive and just world for all of us.
San Bernardino as a whole is a significantly underserved community, often marginalized due to economic challenges and other misconceptions. We intentionally established the inaugural Viva La Boba in San Bernardino because of our profound affection for this city and our belief in its untapped potential. The residents here are characterized by their diversity and strong work ethic, many of whom have roots in the area that span generations. They rightfully deserve the same level of resources, recreational facilities, dining establishments, and, notably, a community-oriented boba shop like ours that neighboring cities like Redlands enjoy.
At our establishment, our primary commitment is to support various segments of the community, which includes but is not limited to the LGBTQIA+ community, individuals with disabilities, participants in the WORC program, young people on their journey to recovery, and many others. I often emphasize that we transcend the conventional definition of a boba shop, as we are deeply embedded in the fabric of this community.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers.
In the spring of 2017, one year post film school, I realized spending my lunch breaks crying in the bathroom stalls of CBS TV Studios was not the career I had envisioned for myself. After working in the television industry for several years, I realized I was unhappy. Desperate for more control over my career, I quit my office job and opened my own boba shop. Now I spent my time cleaning bathrooms that I owned instead of crying in ones that I didn’t – a much better deal, overall.
The “Why boba” and “Why San Bernardino” questions are important aspects of the Viva La Boba story. San Bernardino is a struggling city with a bad (but improving) reputation – what was once the jewel of the Inland Empire has fallen by the wayside due to corruption, greed, and financial strain. However, no matter how badly the city has deteriorated over the past 50 years, the resilience of the community has never wavered. I’ve been living in the Inland Empire since 2008, and no matter how often people made fun of San Bernardino, the people I would meet who were from there or lived there were always proud to be from their city. So, when I decided to open a small business, I knew I wanted to open in a city that actually needed a boba shop because they didn’t have a single one.
Although business would certainly be easier in one of the more “successful” neighboring towns, I intentionally chose the often forgotten San Bernardino – a community that deserves nice things! I also intentionally chose boba because there was no other boba spot in town – locals who wanted boba would have to drive 15 minutes or more out of the city just to get to the closest shop. Now people drive in from other towns just to try Viva!
We often hear about learning lessons – but just as important is unlearning lessons. Have you ever had to unlearn a lesson?
This is a bit silly, but I’m a very opinionated person and I used to be convinced that I was always right! Thus, when it came time to figure out our menu offerings, I was vehemently against selling taro milk tea as I personally wasn’t a fan. After a LOT of demand for it in our first week of opening, we started selling it, and now it is one of our bestsellers. I learned that I’m not always right, and my personal taste can’t interfere with what customers want!
Any insights you can share with us about how you built up your social media presence?
Being authentic and genuine on social media is what got us from nothing to 10.8k followers. I’m always transparent and myself when I post on our social channels, and I truly believe that’s what got us so far. I post what I think is fun and interesting, not just what I “should” post. Stand out!