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A Homeschooled Kid Has Set Her Sights on Boba Tea Domination

Here’s how an 11-year-old model and entrepreneur opened a booming bubble tea business in Arlington.
| |Photography by Kathy Tran
Olivia Huynh rocketbelly
Olivia Huynh began investing her savings from modeling and acting gigs in 2019. Kathy Tran

On a late Thursday afternoon, Olivia Huynh watched as a woman and three children walked into her boba tea shop inside an Arlington strip mall. “Hi! Welcome to Rocketbelly!” she said before explaining how the self-serve operation works. Drinks could be made to their desired level of sweetness, and they could choose any add-ins, ranging from classic brown sugar tapioca pearls to fruits and jellies. What she didn’t mention was that the tea flavors, which include Bulgarian rose lychee tea and pandan coconut milk tea, were personally approved by her, though they were all made by her mom, Mary Huynh. That’s because Olivia’s not allowed to cook in the kitchen yet. The owner of Rocketbelly is only 11 years old. 

Olivia came up with the idea for the boba shop—which also sells chicken, curry plates, skewers, and wings—when she was 10. Her parents helped her navigate the process of opening her own business, which they had already done once before. When Olivia was about 6 or 7, Mary and her husband, Joseph Nguyen, taught her the importance of investing during a home-schooling lesson.

“Instead of the traditional piggy bank, we taught her you can invest and make money off of your money,” Mary says. 

Using savings from commercial acting gigs and modeling, Olivia invested in one of her first big business ventures in 2019. She created a subscription baking kit service for folks looking to bake their own cookies, cupcakes, and cakes without the hassle of measuring out the ingredients. During the pandemic, the business boomed. 

After restrictions lifted and customer subscriptions lagged, Olivia’s parents advised her to brainstorm a new business. She decided on boba tea, and used the profits from her first business to fuel her second. But opening Rocketbelly was not easy. They originally set up shop in an Irving business park in late 2021, but were forced to move after three months when the landlord changed. A potential second home in Arlington fell through nine days before they were supposed to open. Olivia became desperate, and she and her mom began picking up the phone to call brokers and landlords. That didn’t exactly solve the problem: very few people are willing to take such a young business owner seriously, Olivia says. 

Finally, Olivia and her parents met with one landlord who decided to hear her out. “No one else wanted to give Olivia a shot, but this lady was willing to,” Mary says. “We’re really grateful for that.”

Business has been steady thanks to news coverage and TikTok. Olivia’s glad, because she’s got ambitious goals for another Rocketbelly location as well as new concepts, such as a chicken shop. She has ambitious goals in general. Her to-do list is infinite. 

“I want to open Rocketbelly everywhere to spread happiness,” she says. “I want to go back to modeling, acting, singing, piano—I forgot the other stuff.”

“Everything!”    


This story originally appeared in the December issue of D Magazine with the headline “To Boba and Beyond. Write to [email protected].

Author

Nataly Keomoungkhoun

Nataly Keomoungkhoun

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Nataly Keomoungkhoun joined D Magazine as the online dining editor in 2022. She previously worked at the Dallas Morning News,…

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