It's Not Traditional, It's TWRL with Olivia Chen
Olivia Chen is the Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of TWRL Milk Tea and a creative entrepreneur who loves bringing people together and brand storytelling. She knows how to use unconventional marketing tactics to make a brand stand out and increase sales.
Olivia shares how TWRL Milk Tea started and how her and her business partner Pauline have grown the business together. You’ll learn the secrets of their success and hear about the challenges they’ve faced along the way.
Today’s episode is hosted by Diana Fryc of Retail Voodoo, connect with her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianafryc/
TWRL Milk tea, the product, suppliers and history
The inspiration behind TWRL, its foundation and the people behind it
Work dynamics of two business partners, Olivia and Pauline
Creating a successful brand through embracing identity and differentiation
ABOUT THE GUEST
Co-Founder & CMO, TWRL Milk Tea
“We incorporated the concept of nature and fusion into our Milk Tea or drinks, which is now a common trend in coffee, but at the time we were the pioneers in this approach.”- Olivia
“Alignment on important values is crucial, and not many people think about it. As individuals with a strong marketing background, Pauline and I prioritize this aspect.” – Olivia
00:00 | Introduction
01:15 | Introducing Olivia Chen
04:00 | About TWRL Milk Tea
05:42 | What is Milk Tea
07:01 | Farm Suppliers
09:30 | The beginnings of TWRL
12:46 | Work Dynamics With A Business Partner
28:41 | The Brands Growth & Trajectory
38:19 | Differentiation & Embracing Identity
39:55 | What’s Next for TWRL
44:31 | Spotlighting Amazing Women
45:55 | Conclusion
This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo. A brand consultancy focused on building, growing, and revitalizing brands in the food, beverage, health, and wellness industries. If you are ready to find a partner that will help your business create a high-impact strategy that gives your brand an advantage, please visit
Contact – Retail Voodoo to set up a discovery call today.
Produced by Heartcast Media
Diana: Here’s a quick disclaimer. The views, statements and opinions expressed in this program are those of the speakers. The statements are not intended to be product claims or medical advice. Hi, Diana Fryc here. I’m the host of The Gooder podcast, where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food, beverage and wellness categories about their journeys to success and their insights on the industry. This episode is brought to you by retail Voodoo. Retail Voodoo is a brand development firm. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind, RCI, PepsiCo, Nike and many other market leaders. We provide strategic brand and design services in the for the food, wellness, beverage and fitness industries. So if your goal is to increase market share, drive growth or simply disrupt the category, give us a call and let’s talk. You can find out more at retail hyphen voodoo dot com. Well, I’m very interested and excited to introduce to you Olivia Chen, who is co-founder and CMO of Twirl Milk Tea. Olivia was born in the Midwest and raised in Northern California from her from parents or by parents who immigrated from Taiwan. Growing up, she loved the treats her relatives brought from Taiwan, and especially the warm memories of making poverty together at home. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she managed partner relationships at a tech startup where she met Pauline, her co-founder partner. She earned an MBA and M.A. from Wharton School and the Latter Institute, and then led marketing teams at Estee Lauder for global brands like Clinique, Donna Karan Cosmetics and Origins. Well, Olivia, how are you today?
Olivia: I’m great. Thank you so much for having me today. I’m super excited to dive in and chat.
Diana: Okay. Well, thank you so much. Where are you calling from or where where are you recording from today?
Olivia: Well, I’m recording for my home work office. Okay. And it’s in Northern California. The art world is based in San Francisco.
Diana: Okay. Are you guys still in the rain, Ines, or is that subsided?
Olivia: That has subsided. I think it’s going to come in another three weeks. We were inundated with it. It felt like this tsunami of also. Really? Yes. You know, it was raining nonstop. And at one point I thought my roof was going to start. Leak was just it was just so much rain. It was so much rain.
Diana: Oh, my goodness. Yes.
Olivia: And we’re not used to it out here.
Diana: No, I was totally climate change.
Olivia: Yes, I was. That ever been this cold? Cold? Yes, it was super. Now it’s not. Now it’s super sunny. But the when the storm was here, it was it was the last few weeks before that was really, really cold.
Diana: Wow. So I was in Las Vegas for fancy foods a couple of weeks ago, and they were talking about how they are needing to rebuild the irrigation in the city. It’s a massive project that they’re working on starting this year because they said they’ve never had they don’t typically have rain. And in the last couple of years they’ve had so much and they’ve had enough rain and they didn’t have infrastructure to support it at the hotels because everything’s flat out there. We’re getting all the lobbies, we’re getting flooded every last one of them.
Olivia: Yes, it was kind of dodged the potholes in California on the highways because the roads have been so dry.
Olivia: So all this rain and kind of the beating on the roads and so people a lot of people have flat tires and you were just avoiding potholes that seem to open up from the earth. It’s crazy.
Diana: Oh, my gosh. Fingers crossed for the next bit of rain, then.
Diana: So I want to start with I learned about you guys from last year’s Expo East, where I was one of the judges for Pitch Slam. And Pauline, your partner, was the person pitching and she was just such a great person to connect with. And I’m also a huge fan of Milk Tea, which we can talk about later. But I had to reach out and say, okay, I got to know about more about you guys, so thank you for being open to this and I’m excited to dive in and learn a little bit about you and what you guys are up to. So let’s start with the very first question, like to ask everybody. Can you tell us a little bit about twirl milk tea and why it exists?
Olivia: Yeah, So thank you for the opportunity. So twirl is a artisanal, plant based milk tea that’s been inspired by our Asian American heritage, innovation and sustainability. And what makes the super unique is we’re powered by plant based pea milk and we’re also using small family farms for our loose leaf brewed tea. Oh, that’s a little bit different from what’s kind of in the market. And I would say it’s also a new category for most retailers. There is canned milk tea, but it’s traditionally from abroad and it’s higher in calorie count. Hair and sugar. So that’s a little bit what makes twirl unique.
Diana: Yeah. And talk for those who don’t know who what what milk tea is. I you know, I live on the West Coast and we’re inundated with it. But there are other parts of the country where this is still kind of new. Tell us what milk tea is.
Olivia: Yeah. So tea on a whole is number two in the category. So it’s actually number two after water. And what milk is, is actually essentially a tea latte. So instead of a coffee or coffee latte, we’re basically replacing tea into coffee. And so that’s what basically milk tea is just adding a milk component or a plant based milk component into tea. And that is what creates a tea latte and bubble milk. Tea bubble tea, that phenomenon that’s really popular starting in the eighties in Taiwan, which is where bubble tea and bubble tea came from, has actually basically infiltrated the US and around the world. So on the streets of Paris, you also will see somebody holding a bubble tea or about property. Yeah, I think we drink. And so we basically turned the cafe may drink into a can and were the first to do that with plant based milks and then also really artisanal plant based, artisanal based teas that are unique to kind of the beverage industry.
Diana: Mm hmm. And you mentioned small family farms. When you say that, are these domestic are they overseas? Is it a mix?
Olivia: Yeah. So most of not all tea farmers are abroad into our teas come from China, Japan and Taiwan. And I would say the teas in Taiwan are pretty well renowned. And so being close to those farmers that use regenerative practices, they also care about biodiversity. They’re practicing farming techniques that are centuries old that don’t use pesticides. And so those are kind of small family farms that we’re really looking. And that’s the first part of when we do our sourcing is are there small farms, Do they do these practices that we value? And it’s really comes down to the sustainability story that we are really adamant about. And Pauline are both moms. We’re longtime friends, and so why we care about sustainability is we are concerned about the next generation, you know, where our kids or grandkids where the future is going. And we just talked earlier about the weather issues, all of these climate changes. They really do affect how the food that we produce, the food that we intake are going to be affecting us for generations to come. And so the importance of having planting in season, not using pesticides, not over using the soil. So those are things that we really, really care about as we build and scale tomorrow.
Diana: Gotcha. Okay, that’s great. I love hearing that. You’re right. California is kind of seems to be the the lightning rod. Well, maybe it’s the second lightning rod because Florida and the Southeast has been getting hammered with those big storms as well. So it seems like the size of the as the size of these events just keeps getting better or bigger and there’s a greater degree of frequency.
Olivia: Right. I mean, they basically the last storm is going to be in the billions for for recovery. The devastation was quite, quite large.
Diana: 37 counties. Is that what I heard? That were declared disaster areas?
Olivia: That sounds about right. It was pretty high number. Yeah, it was his state of emergency.
Diana: Oh, my goodness. Okay, well, let’s go back to the brand a little bit. Tell us a little bit about why you and Pauline decided to do this. What’s the Genesis story?
Olivia: Yeah. So Pauline and I met at a tech startup and we had we were both in the marketing department working for an amazing marketer and and Glenn Kelman, who’s the current CEO of Redfin. Okay, So Glenn had handpicked a marketing team, and we like to say he has a great eye just picking like minded people because we’re all still friends to this day from that original team. And we had always bonded over food. There was actually an app on our the software company that we worked at that was a lunch app where you could order food from local businesses and we would all eat in the lunchroom together. And so that was the first start of our relationship was just always bonding over lunch and food. And then as we kind of left that software company Plum Tree, we still connected over the years, you know, catching up over a meal or at the latest cafe. And about maybe 15 years ago, we talked about creating an Asian inspired snack company, and we were looking at Lotus chips and Bali popcorn prior to any of that being existing today. But, you know, motherhood, work and life kind of took over and that that that kind of went and went and disappeared. And so during the pandemic, Pauline, like many, started tinkering around at home and she started building not a pandemic fridge full of vegetables and condiments, but it was full of milk, tea, bubble milk, tea and different things, right? Yes. And so her pandemic fridge that she bought was filled with different concoctions. And so she was testing recipes and making them at home as she was doing juggling motherhood and online school and working alongside her husband. And so she started doing focus groups and just testing formulas and variations and all from the home kitchen and all while at home. So we we find that reconnected during the pandemic and we started talking about rural and what that could be. And so that’s how we moved from the home kitchen to a co-packer. And that’s where we have, you know, towards today in, in a can. Yeah, so it really can. Yeah. So it really just came out of a love for food and a friendship that was born over the years through that love of food and beverage.
Diana: Oh I that’s. I love the story of friendships that can develop into a a business. And there’s something special about brands where, you know, you’ve got a family member or a close friend, family friend involved. I know that just the stress of building the business is tricky in and of itself. So how do you and Pauline make sure that you guys are caring for yourself and yourselves and the relationship that you have during those really high stress moments? Did you do you create boundaries for each other, for yourselves, or do you just read each other and know when to move away? Or you know, how does that work? How do you guys make sure it works?
Olivia: I mean, I think it’s a great question. I think what’s one thing is not uncommon to other people during the pandemic. You know, we launched our company during the pandemic. So one, it was actually launched away from each other. So that was one boundary that was very physically imposed on us. So a lot of email, a lot of phone calls, a lot of Zoom, our Google meet. And so those were the kind of the tools that allowed us to have a physical separation. Mm hmm. We talk and text versus click, yet is there like, so many methods, like we’re constantly in contact and I’m a phone person and Pauline is actually more introverted, so she prefers kind of all the text. So it’s kind of finding that balance a little bit. I would say the key for a good partnership, regardless of a family member or friend or a loved one, is actually what you just said, kind of understanding the boundaries of that person. I would say what makes Pauline and I work as a team is we’re actually two different personalities. You know, I’m an MBA, so I’m half introverted and half extroverted. She’s actually a true introvert that has learned to be more extroverted. Like what you saw at Pitch Pitch Slam piece. So she’s had to learn to kind of put herself out there. So kind of finding that medium balance of understanding that we both need to step up to kind of certain situations of personalities. Yeah. And I would say we also have one thing I think that most people underestimate when building your brand, especially like ours, where it’s a very package forward, very design for. Yeah, Pauline and I essentially have a very similar design esthetic.
Diana: That’s super helpful.
Olivia: Yeah, it’s, it’s super helpful. And what I mean by that is I am actually more but very focused on videos and photos. Yeah. And she definitely like the Armbar, but I mean that’s all poly like these designs with graphic the critical elements. Pauline But when we look at each other’s works, we like, I would say 99% were like, yes, that’s right. Or we’re very open to kind of the feedback to be like, Oh, maybe not quite on, but generally I would say I’m very trusting of that side. So being able to build a brand like that where it’s so focused on the packaging and image, it’s very important to be aligned. And I think not a lot of people think like that to begin with. Like, are you aligned on the certain things that are really important? And that is a very important to Pauline and I as we come from a pretty strong marketing background. Yeah, very centric on the consumer are very strict on the image. Yeah. So those are things that we look for and I would say at the end of the day is also having kind of a divide and conquer in terms of responsibilities. So Pauline is more into product development. She loves the creative side of actually kind of being the taste bud of the product, the new flavor. So our flavor profiles are really unique. Yeah, we have a roasted, we have a jasmine who are we have a talent stop loss. They’re very yeah, they’re very unique varietals that are not commonly found in a tea. So a tea drink is typically like black, green, maybe a jasmine, but ours is a jasmine pure. So that’s something that’s really kind of in Hollywood’s domain. And it is well, with her more introverted side where she can kind of nerd out on that science. I mean, really like nerd like she’s just like, hit it out of me. When I go to Asia, I haul back like bags and bags of tea. Like my all my clothes are super fragrant because I’m calling. Yes. Tea samples. And she’s always having different she’s always training drinks. So, like, we love like looking at different competitors in this life related space and just kind of always in all the different innovations. And that’s part of what I mentioned earlier in our mission statement. So the idea of bringing nature and fusion into our drinks, which is very common now in coffee. But t there was nobody doing it and we were the first to bring them.
Diana: Interesting. You packed so much in there. I have to say that, first of all, the alignment thing, you know, we work with lots of brands. I would say 50% or more of the brands that we work with, our entrepreneurial founder owners and the rest are mid-cap to multinational. And what I have found with the small startup brands. Is that there’s sometimes there’s that redundancy, this divide and conquer concept that you’re talking about really relies on trust and understanding that the other person has got the ball. But I think the beginning of that is something that you said, which is there’s an alignment. And oftentimes I think where the struggle happens for many. Many companies that have multiple founders involved in the decision making is there. The alignment isn’t set ahead of time, and they’re kind of like building the alignment plane as they’re flying it. And I think a lot of speed bumps and efficiencies can be had if there’s kind of some of those basic alignment issues. Do you trust me with the marketing? How much do you need me to have control if you’re an IT person or if you’re the techie person, you’re the nerd out person. Hey, let me take care of this component over here. I got your back and I’m going to let you do this over here. I think that’s super critical for an entrepreneurial brand. However, also super critical. And multinationals, you cannot have a team of 40 people making all the decisions. Granted, they do have teams of people making decisions, but they don’t bring everybody into every meeting. And I think there’s some learnings there and I’m glad that you pointed that out. I also love that you talk about the introvert extrovert because obviously I’m an extrovert. My business partner, introvert. He’s the one that’s the strategist. He’s in the creative, he’s in the data, he’s in the research. He’s creating all of this magical work behind the scenes on brand positioning. And I mentioned to you earlier, I’m in an MBA program, and we were required to read a book called Quiet, which is basically understanding how introverts work up here. And as an extrovert, it was mind blowing the amount of learning that I now understand about my business partner and how to approach him during certain certain events, certain conversations, all that sort of thing. Is it is that awareness that you guys have about each other is really fantastic and it’s clearly contributing to your success.
Olivia: I mean, I think that’s really amazing to hear about kind of the similar revelation that you had about introverts and extrovert. So in a past life, I was a publicist.
Diana: Oh, you were okay.
Olivia: Yes. And one of the books that I really came to love and actually helped her do her US launch is called Quiet Is a Superpower by Jill Jay.
Diana: Yes, I haven’t heard that when I was. But it sounds good.
Olivia: So she is considered the Asia Susan Kane. Okay. So quite, quite popular. She her book was translated into English. It’s really about the workplace and how quiet, introverted people can find success. And some tips. And I actually having an Ambien, that’s where I actually learned the term.
Olivia: It was actually like you. Similar very eye opening to understand the struggles but also the amazing abilities of. Yes. And then having that knowledge, it actually helped me work with Pauline a bit better. Yes. To replace that. You know, I call it out like I prefer a phone call. So when I meet certain like certain team members, I’d be like, well, I’m actually I’m just let you know I’m a phone person. Yes, I’m a I prefer talking versus writing or texting, but I will kind of abide by the rules to kind of give the other person balance. And so kind of working within like a click or a temp. Yeah. And through but having a balance. But at the at the end, I still will like a phone call of some sort, at least once or twice a week, once a day to do a check in. Yes. And so kind of those are tips and tools that I actually garnered a lot from the book. And I highly recommend people read it. It’s an easy read, and I think it helps many, many people realize that more people are introverted than you realize. A lot of authors are actually. Most of them, if not all, are interesting.
Diana: I think a lot of creatives are.
Olivia: A lot of creatives are. And I think now when I meet somebody for the first time, I actually make a mental note. Are they introvert or extroverted? Because I will adjust how I engage with them. And I think it’s actually much more effective. Yeah.
Diana: And I’ll say, I threw out this term. I said, Oh, creative people are introverted. I like to remind people. That anybody who makes something is creative. So. Developers and any, you know, people who are in the back writing code are developing. They’re creating something that people who are in R&D data, scientists, those people are all creating something out of nothing. Mathematicians, many of them are introverted and it’s kind of to the benefit of whatever it is that they’re doing for work because it requires that kind of deep thinking and the ability to just silo in. Not so good that with I’m not good with that.
Olivia: Yeah, I think what it is, it’s different. Yeah. Do you I mean I half I’m half introverted, conservative. I think we process things a little bit different things by thinking out loud. Yes, by brainstorming. And sometimes when I do that with Pauline or some other team members, you know, the best ideas come out that way. Yeah. But then I’ll allow someone like Pauline, who’s introverted, to take that idea that I’ve come up with. Then today, deep, deep down, she can keep, you know. Yes. And perhaps I would say that type of partnership is something that is worth looking into when our founders are looking for part. Yes. And who do you surround yourself with and realizing like what type of personality will work well? Yeah, I would say I’m more direct. So that person like Pauline is like really, really nice. She’s very much more easygoing and I’m much more direct and we’re more out there. And so finding that balance of how do you figure out that team dynamic, I think is very, very important. Yes. Those founders, I think, like you said, are just kind of slogging through, just like trying to put out fires.
Olivia: One mentioned I read somewhere that, you know, what is a founder’s lively and it really is just about managing problems that arise every day. Truth. And there was a period of time where I thought, Oh, this is this is really difficult. Where I like being, you know, we launched Whirl, we got into distribution, we won some those. But then every day there’s like a new challenge. And once I kind of thought to myself, like, okay, what what problem was I going to solve today, Right? What am I going to be able to address and mitigate? It helped, to be honest. And you talked earlier about what boundaries do we set. I have been trying to reincorporate exercise back into my life, so I’m training like a 30 day yoga challenging to do over you. Yeah. So I’m on day three thing.
Diana: One one day and one day at a time.
Olivia: Every day. And trying to do a couple of times of walks where I listen to podcasts. I’m a huge podcaster. Good. So that’s why when you reached out, I was like, Yeah, I love podcasts. I actually think podcasts are a great way to refuel the mind and and have creative ideas.
Diana: And there’s there’s so many people, there’s so many different ways to deliver messages and so many ways to slice and dice human behavior that the number of podcasts out there are just endless. It’s kind of like the new book almost, for lack of a better description. But yeah, yeah, it’s so funny. Yeah, right. Like figuring out how you work with a business partners such a big deal. And I would say the difference between David and myself is I work best when I can think in chaos because the chaos actually fuels my thinking. Oh, I don’t think I’m going to take a little bit about that and a little bit of this and throw it into a blender. And here’s a couple of ideas. He likes to have things kind of organized nowhere, like put everything in. You know, I always say he’s very Swiss in his thinking, in his design. Everything’s got a place and every place has a thing and it’s too sterile for me. And it’s magical that I can do. Think about the same thing over here that he can think of. And we often come to the same conclusions or near the same conclusions. So it’s very interesting how that all works and having an awareness going into a business relationship about be maybe don’t be, don’t be overly concerned that your partner thinks differently than you, because that could actually be the magic bullet. You know.
Olivia: I’m in agreement. I mean, I think a lot of times, especially when you’re building your brand, you know, having those creative ideas out of the box, thinking, how do you get your brand noticed? And throughout my career, one theme that came up through every job I had and the feedback is, were your super creative. You don’t think like other people and you don’t present ideas or execute ideas that are the same as everyone else. And I think that’s. Been a joy to bring that sign to twirl. You know, in terms of partnerships, in terms of ideas and how we come to market products and launches. And so I do recommend a lot of people kind of leaning in to kind of those things that over the years people have told you that you’re good at. Yes, there is a theme. Mm hmm. And when you’re younger, I think you don’t always think about them necessarily as like traits. And it, I would say, was only the last few years, I started to realize, oh, I’m creative. But if I. If I had asked my younger self, I probably wouldn’t have been myself creative, because to me, a creative person was a true artist, someone who knew how to draw or was an architect that can build a building. And so I didn’t necessarily equate that with traditional arts or dramatic on a play. Yeah, but but now looking back and all every, you know, every project, every manager, every person I’ve touched has always said, you know, you’re really creative. And so that now I kind of lean really into that. And I’m like, say like, yeah, you know what? I am actually a very creative person and that is something that’s an asset to twirl.
Diana: It’s cool. Well, let’s go back to milk tea here. I want to ask you, you know, milk tea, it feels like it exploded into the American marketplace a couple, three years ago. Mostly the bubble tea, not I think through through the bubble tea kind of venue. And let’s not deny it. Twirl is one of the Darling brands. People are really paying attention to what you guys are doing, not only because the marketing, but because the product is so good. In your opinion, what’s inspiring the growth of this category now? What’s what’s connecting with American consumers?
Olivia: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a really great question. So we’re really lucky we’re in a couple of categories of growth. One is, you know, I mentioned to you is number two, it’s really growing category. More and more coffee drinkers are turning to tea. And the reason is tea actually has l-theanine, which is the mood calming amino acid that’s naturally found in teas and saw something you need to add in. And what that is, is a mood relaxant. So it gives you the energy, kind of a clean focus, but it doesn’t give you the jitters that you typically have a coffee. I would say another category of growth would be the movement towards less sugar, lower calories. So all our drinks are under a 50 and under seven grams of sugar. So under 50 calories and seven grams of sugar, which is organic, are garbage. So it’s like real sugar. So it’s not using it for thrall or sugar alcohols, which when we did the testing, which were poorly noted out. I mean, she must’ve tested like hundreds and hundreds of recipes. Yeah. Yeah. It’s it’s kind of we’re doing testing now for new flavors and it is just like, mind boggling how many virgins. You know, She’s coming to my house in about an hour, and I know she’s going to bring, like, trays of, like, cups of tea and.
Diana: Oh, that would be so fun.
Olivia: It is super, super fun. I should do a video for that. And so that’s a big growth of leaning into that idea of healthier, better for you. And that really stems from our own needs. As we got older, we found we couldn’t drink the cafe, made drinks because they were really high in sugar. They’re typically between 200 calories or 250 to 300 calories and 30 grams of sugar. And so I usually go to a café and I’ll be like, Can you give me 25%?
Diana: Right. I do the same.
Olivia: Are you do this? A lot of people do. But it’s very inconsistent because you don’t know if the barista is like, are they able to guess like what level of 25% or, you know, like, and like the tea affects it like the flavor. And so it’s that consistent. Yeah. And it’s also like the time we don’t always have time to go to a cafe. So the ability to order online or pick it up from a grocery store with something essential. So those are the two categories. And I would say the big trend of convenience, you know, the rising grab and go, yeah, ready to eat lunches. And so coupling that with the ready to drink beverages, I would say those are things that are big. Most importantly, I would say that there is a trend for authenticity in brands. You’re looking at who is behind the brand? Yeah, I would say in the past brands have been able to be launched just as a brand but not understanding who is behind it. Yeah. Are you authentically able to bring that story, that flavor profile in an awful. Take way to the consumers. There are a few brands that are bringing Asian inspired beverages and snacks, but they’re actually not Asian founders. They have nothing related to the Asian culture. They found those flavor profiles and are able to bring that to the market. But I would say now, given kind of what’s happening in the U.S. from all the different hate crimes, as well as awareness of the landscape and the importance of this authenticity, brands like Twirl were pulling and they are in some ways now we’ve had to become more of the face of the brands. Yeah, the introverted side of twirl. But yeah, we probably would be prefer to just have everything behind.
Diana: Right. Yeah.
Olivia: And I’ve actually we’ve had conversations. I said, well, I think we need to lean in because people are interested and they’re excited to know that there’s two women that look like them, like that are Asian American. Yeah. And they’re creating a brand that’s reflective of a culture that they can relate to. And so I would say we’re not building an Asian brand that’s only from Asia. Yeah, we’re building it only an American brand. We’re building an Asian American brand that’s reflective of we both grew up here. I was born and raised in the U.S. and this is a molding, a melting pot of things that I grew up with.
Diana: Well, I’m going to add something else that you may not be considering. But, you know, my parents were immigrants and I also have a connection with other. People, particularly women who were who are children of immigrant families, because we’re kind of not of this culture. We’re not of that culture. We’re a little bit of both. I remember talking with Aisha. And do you know Ayesha abuela over at the Mason Dixie?
Olivia: Oh, I’ve heard of the brand of sex. I follow.
Diana: Her. She’s a wonderful lady. And we talked about the fact that it’s kind of like you don’t fit in anywhere and you fit in everywhere at the same time. But there’s a work ethic that is instilled by our parents because immigrant families tend to have their parents come over with a certain expectation of performance of their children. And so we all really work very hard. So I would say you guys are also an inspiration on the face of other people who whose parents have come from somewhere else and are here and doing big and great things. So there’s another group there for you as well.
Olivia: I think that’s really beautiful. I really appreciate you sharing that story about your background and your parents. And Pauline and I are like you daughters of immigrants. And the biggest champion of all is actually our parents growing up thinking about how proud they are of Pauline. And I like literally tearing up because, you know, we’ll send articles or some podcast that we’ve been featured on and our parents are like, Oh my gosh, so amazing. And you know, for them to see that their daughters are creating a brand in a new country, that that’s new came with just suitcases, right? Really, really humble beginnings. Humble, humble beginnings, starting from nothing and not knowing anybody. Right. And so I would say what we start twirl is sometimes feels a little bit like that humble beginning. Yeah. Just starting from, you know, just our own connections and grit. Gumption. Yeah. Like a lot of I would say we have a lot of hustle. Yeah. That’s where the creativity needs to come in. How do you stand out? I think you mentioned a little bit about, you know, the challenges of twirl. It is a very competitive competitive market in beverage and you ask why is gaining that traction? I would say we are really focus on great tasting milk tea. It just happens to be plant based. It wasn’t the reason that was in Poland is vegetarian, but I see there are people in Taiwan who are from the milk bubble, multi industry. The industry there, they were shocked that it was plant based. Really don’t always lead with the plant based we lead with it’s a just a great tasting multi does.
Diana: With amazing founders like, Oh.
Olivia: Thank you so much. I mean, we’re very grateful. We’re very, very grateful for the recognition by people like you and just to support it as a small brand that speaks volumes, you know, being able to open up your network, your resources, your voice to help, amplifying what we’re trying to do, it’s not easy competing against brands and companies that have multi-million dollar campaigns where it’s, you know, Pauline and I are. We’re still working from our home. You know, we’re doing a lot of things that you’d be surprised that we’re still doing. But we have a lot of dreams about the idea that travel was and will be a brand that will be very commonly found in your pantry and your fridge. And we hope that someone will be able to kind of recognize that.
Diana: I’m sure I’m sure that that is in your future. Well, I wonder, you know, we’ve we’ve told so much of your story and I wonder what sort of advice you might give to other people that are wanting to follow in your footsteps and starting a new brand.
Olivia: Yeah, I would say have differentiation with the brand that you’re wanting to build and the product that you want to bring to market. I mentored some Wharton students. I had way yeah. Recently and I and I kind of they were doing a Keith competition and I said you know you really need to think about what would make you special. A buyer is looking at a lot of different products, you know, in the beverage and the food space and they have a lot of choice. So why would they want to choose you and what would make your product distinct? And I shared with him what makes a trial distinct is Pauline and I grew up with this beverage. We grew up with this beverage that exploded in popularity in the eighties. And it’s, as you said, has kind of moved that explosion over to the US, to the world, actually. Now most people are walking around with a bubble tea. If you went after school, where would you go? Hang out right out of the Bubble Cafe. And so that phenomenon, how do you translate that into a product that is popular in a grocery store? So those are probably just uniqueness that are a trend, but a trend that is here to stay. Hmm. So I often talk about kind of thinking hard and deep about who and what you are, and that part is critical to a brand success.
Diana: Awesome. Well, what’s next for For Twirl? You mentioned you gave a little hint about.
Olivia: I did. I did.
Diana: Ask her. Okay, what’s new?
Olivia: So we have a preorder of a what we’re calling a jelly boba. It’s super amazing. It’s a ready to eat. You just cut open the packets and they’re made of cognac. So some people call it crystal jelly. And so it’s just like little package. Have a lychee flavor.
Diana: Yes, My favorite, even.
Olivia: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s very low calorie, low sugar. You just cut it up and strain it, and then you just put it into your drink and it pairs really, really nicely into something. It is looking for something a little bit chewy to pair with. Like your milk tea. Ideally, a twirl that we highly recommend. Consider on preorder from our website. And then we’ll officially working on launching two stores starting in February-March. And then we have a brown sugar bar and this is instant, so it requires heating. Gotcha.
Olivia: Or the stove. Yeah. So it looks similar, but slightly different.
Diana: Okay, get the tap open.
Olivia: And then you just put it in a jar. Either you microwave it or you put on the stove up and under, under 30 seconds in. That’s ready to go into a drink. And I would love to hear a fun term that’s very common in Taiwan. Yes. And it’s called Q. Q You spell it with the Q and Q Okay. And Q2, it just means CHEWINESS. Okay. Eating Taiwanese and it’s similar to how you would say is a pasta ready? Is it out in t0q? Q Is the new al dente? I would say.
Diana: I love.
Olivia: That, yes. And so we have the perfect Q. Q Perfect. Q from the Babas and in the Jollibee Buzz. And so we are super excited to kind of bring this new step in to where twirl is going, is being able to pair well plus our milk teas. And some people might ask like, Oh, why don’t you have bubbles in your milk teas? Yeah. So we did a lot of testing focus groups when we first launched and we decided to lean into the flavor profiles of what role has. But also Baba essentially is a tapioca. The jelly is an is a non tapioca alternative, but tapioca is a starch that absorbs water. So to put that into a can that has like a year shelf life or a year and a half, it didn’t. The taste won’t last. And it affects kind of the outcome of what you would have with it too, too, that I have mentioned before. So we just saw and a lot of people are actually concerned about calories. So how do you keep it low calorie without having to go down a sugar alcohol which affects taste? Yeah. So we wanted to actually separate them out. So we worked on building that twirl audience and then we tested long and hard about finding the perfect kuku, the perfect sweet, but not too sweet of Baba’s to pair with twirl. So that’s kind of where we’re doing it. And then in May we will be launching a new flavor that we’re really, really excited about. It’s we just can’t wait to kind of share more with others.
Diana: Okay. Not ready for. Prime time, though. We have to wait.
Olivia: Yes. It’s not it’s it’s. Well, we’ll be doing an announcement in March.
Diana: At Expo West. Okay.
Olivia: So if people could come to Expo West to our booth, we will be having samples there, actually.
Diana: Okay. I will be there.
Olivia: You will be there? Yes. Yes, there.
Diana: Olivia, I’m really. I’m really enjoying our time together. I love hanging out with extroverts, and I’m a huge fan. I actually drink probably six cups of green tea every day at minimum. Loose leaf and RTD is right on the back end of that on those days when I’m moving around. So super excited to see what you’re doing in this space. I always have one or two questions I like to ask everybody that’s kind of off, not off topic, but sort of off topic. This show is really about elevating women in leadership, in CPG. And so one of the questions I like to ask is, are there any other women leaders out there or rising stars in our industry or not that you would like to elevate or just simply admire for the work they’re doing right now?
Olivia: Yeah, I would love to highlight Lauren from Love and Chew. Okay. I think she’s a wonderful person who’s a fellow API founder based in San Francisco, and we’ve recently connected and had some phenomenal conversations about what it’s like to start a food and beverage brand. She’s a few years ahead of us, so it’s really she’s been really generous with her knowledge. And so I would love to kind of give a shout out to Laura, tell her that we’re really appreciative of founders like her who are willing to share and uplift.
Diana: And what’s her brand again. So everybody can.
Olivia: Love, Love plus two love.
Diana: Plus CHU okay, great. Well, we’ve been talking with Olivia Chen, co-founder and CMO of Twirl Milk Tea. Olivia, where can people learn more about you and about twirl?
Olivia: Yeah. So we would love for people to connect on social media, on on TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram. Our handle is at twr0 milk and my okay, and then t and t, so twirl milk t and we have our website. It’s WWE Raw milk ted.com. So look forward to connecting.
Diana: Yes. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for your time today. I am so happy to have met you and I look forward to watching what you and Pauline are up to and I’ll be sure to say hello at Expo. Then. I want to thank our listeners for your time today. If you like this episode, please share it with a friend. Otherwise, have a great day and we’ll catch you next time on The Good, Her podcast.