This is Part 1 of a 2-part interview: Read on to Part 2 of Interview with Young Entrepreneur Chingkee Te HERE
It’s not everyday we get to meet a young, successful entrepreneur. At 24 years old, Chingkee Te is an inspiration to many (and to me too!). Fresh out of college, she established her first business at the age of twenty-one. And now, she is the proud owner of one of the most successful, homegrown, milk-tea brands in Cagayan de Oro City – Chingkee Tea.
I met Chingkee at Atlantis Gym a year ago. We became fast friends and would often indulge in long conservations in between Crossfit and lifting weights. It’s amazing how many friends I’ve made at the gym – and Chingkee is one of them. I’ve always liked to interview people about how they’ve “made it” and what their journey was like. So last December 13, 2014 (that’s right, this was done more than a year ago. Hehe), I scheduled an interview with my good friend Chingkee right here at Chingkee Tea.
Alex: Hi Chingkee! Thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview with me. I really appreciate it. Chingkee Tea is one of my favorite milk tea brands here in Cdo. It’s amazing how you now have a thriving business at such a young age. How did you get started?
Chingkee: Thank you Alex! It’s my pleasure. Regarding how I started, I didn’t really plan on being in business. But I couldn’t see myself as an employee either. So on the night after my graduation I felt a little nervous of what was to come. So I prayed about it. I asked, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” I couldn’t see myself working in a 9-5 job. I wanted to work at my own pace. So being an employee was out of the question. I just wanted to have a job that I was passionate about and where I could have time freedom. As I was praying, I felt God was telling me to open a business where I could display my love for art. So I first thought, I can open a café! But then I don’t drink coffee and there are already so many coffee shops around Manila.
Alex: So you were based in Manila then?
Chingkee:Yes. I was a fresh grad from De La Salle University where I took up Marketing. That was back in year 2011. I guess that’s the usual question of new graduates. Like, what am I going to do with my life?
Alex: What did you think of opening next, if not a coffee shop?
Chingkee: I then considered opening a milk tea shop. But then, there were also so many milk tea shops in Manila already. At that time I had no plans of settling down in Cagayan de Oro because I was planning to be based in Manila.
Alex: Why Manila?
Chingkee: I studied there and my siblings are there. It just made sense at the time. Anyway after that, I thought about putting up a milk tea shop in Cagayan. At the time, there were no milk tea shops yet in Cdo. So I called my mom and told her, “I know what I want as my graduation gift…a business.”
Alex: What was your mom’s reaction to that?
Chingkee: My mom was really happy about it. At least with a business, I’d have something to do after graduation.
Alex: How many siblings do you have?
Chingkee: Three. I have an older brother and sister. My sister is 30-she’s happily married to a pastor with 3 kids. My brother is 25 and still single. They’re both based in Manila.
Alex: So back to your graduation gift.
Chingkee: Yes, at first I thought that maybe my mom wasn’t serious about it. But I still did my research. At that time, I didn’t know anything about milk tea except that I liked drinking it. Then there was this one supplier from Taiwan who approached me. He sent me an email and offered to train me in Taiwan.
Alex: Where did you get that supplier?
Chingkee: I made a lot of inquiries online. So when the supplier emailed me, I thought about it long and hard. Because of course, it was a big investment. And the fee didn’t include yet my fare and accommodation. Just the training itself was already expensive. So I prayed again and told God, “Lord, if my dad is ok with this then perhaps it’s really your will.” Amazingly, my dad was willing to support me all the way. So in September, a few months after I graduated, I flew to Taiwan.
Alex: You’re so blessed to have a supportive family.
Chingkee: Yes I do. But it still wasn’t that easy. When I got back from Taiwan, I thought, I could start immediately. But it turned out that what I learned from college was very different from the real world. I was ready to begin but I didn’t know what to do. I had no experience on starting a business. I started to read books on how to start a business, but actually doing it was different.
Photo from kristineobcena.blogspot.com
Alex: Yes, I can relate. Making tea is easy once you’ve got the training. But running a business, that’s the hard part.
Chingkee: Exactly. Plus we had invested a lot of money already. The loan I got from my dad was getting bigger and bigger. Also around October 2011, two milk tea shops opened in Cdo – Kenko Naicha and Datsa. So I got a bit stressed because I really wanted to be the first to open. The thing was, there was still so much to do so we couldn’t open yet. Then I started to have doubts whether I should even push through with it. It’s a good thing my family and friends were very encouraging and supportive. My goal was to open before 2011 ended. But then came Sendong. So the opening had to be rescheduled again. This time we picked Feb 2012 – in time for Valentines. But then again, we got delayed because of construction. We got delayed lots of times before we finally got to open…
Want to know when Chingkee Tea opened? Read on at Interview with Young Entrepreneur Chingkee Te (Part 2)