Mindy Jen: Spreading the Delight of Taiwanese Bubble Tea to The Entire World

Admired Women

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Whether it’s a delicate green tea or a stimulating black, a cup of tea is a complex brew of art, one that has been a part of our lives for generations. Human beings across the planet have been drinking tea for so long that its origin stories are rooted in mythology: more than 4,700 years ago. An industry, a tradition and a daily routine, tea is an indispensable part of the lives of billions.

While most of us are familiar with the usual teas, the Eastern part of the world has revolutionized this age-old drink altogether by creating a more fun, inviting and divine tea experience – Bubble Tea. This refreshing drink that originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s, commonly consists of tea accompanied by chewy tapioca balls, and can be made with other toppings as well such as grass jelly, aloe vera, etc.

Spreading this traditional Taiwanese tea experience is Empire Eagle Food Co., Ltd of Taichung City, Taiwan. Established in 2002, by James Tseng, this organization has spread its bubble tea supply footprint throughout the world. Chief Marketing Officer and James’ wife, Mindy Jen joined the organization in 2015. Within a few years, not only did she triumphantly scale Empire Eagle to gain international recognition, but also launched her own successful brand of bubble tea on the side, while empowering Asian women all along the way.

Mindy Jen
Mindy Jen

"Keep moving forward, and don’t be afraid! Remember, you yourself are the best person in your life. Be yourself, chic yourself, make your own life goals, and shine!".

Rise of the BOBA EMPIRE

Since its inception in 2002, the Empire Eagle organization has been involved in the manufacture and supply of bubble tea materials, primarily exporting to the US and other South-east Asian markets. In 2015, Mindy joined the organization with the goal to extend their products and offerings to the rest of the world, so that others too could experience the captivating flavours of Taiwanese bubble tea. To begin with, she hired an official international trading team to start identifying and acquiring global suppliers for bubble tea.

Soon thereafter, in 2016, the husband-wife duo established their second tea processing factory, amping up operations, while keeping a tighter focus on quality control. Thanks to her outreach initiatives, Mindy soon started noticing a huge influx in enquiries from people interested in becoming a part of Eagle Empire. To address this, in 2017 Mindy established JD Hall, a 7-star training center to educate customers on how to start their own bubble tea businesses. Using her own experience as a global trader, at the center, Mindy trains others in areas such as industrial concepts, business plans, the most original Taiwanese Bubble Tea recipes and more.

In 2019, Mindy metamorphosed Empire Eagle, positioning it as a global bubble tea innovator and supplier, and BOBA EMPIRE was formed. From manufacturing and wholesale, to trading, branding, retail and more, BOBA EMPIRE has emerged as a platform that has been responsible for integrating and uplifting the entire global bubble tea supply chain.

Today, after more than 20 years in business, BOBA EMPIRE has spread its footprint to over 50 countries on 5 continents.  The constant drive to innovate to advance her own brand, led to Mindy being awarded the prestigious Stevie Award for Innovative Products for the years 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and the Stevie Award for Women Entrepreneurs in Business for the years 2020 and 2021.

Innovating & Excelling

Since 2015, Mindy has been leading the transformation efforts of hers and her husband’s company, propelling it to unprecedented heights. What made her join the tea business in the first place? Funnily enough, it was her mother-in-law. Mindy, a former Taiwanese Army Captain and a dual-masters holder found herself wanting to further her professional development after her son was born in 2015.

A college instructor at the time, Mindy came to realise that James required a pair of qualified hands to bear some of the growing workload of his business. Mindy decided that this was exactly the challenge she was looking for. Always willing to be prepared, and determined to stay a cut above the rest in whatever she does, Mindy joined forces with her husband, and has never looked back since.

Even when the Covid-19 pandemic shook the world leaving organizations and individuals suffering in its aftermath, guess what Mindy did. She transformed yet again! Since her wholesale business was suffering, in 2020 Mindy launched her second brand – BOBA CHiC – a cross-border e-commerce business developed to form a direct channel between her organization and her customers.

She says, “I do believe that “difficulties mastered are opportunities won”, so I decided to do something VERY DIFFERENT in this industry. I realized that because of the lockdown, people could only stay at home, but I also believed that people still wanted to drink bubble tea, a sweet drink that could bring little happiness during hard and difficult times. Therefore, I decided to start my digital transformation plan to help my company and my customers get through the pandemic.”

Quickly developing her newest brand, Mindy made her range of Boba Iced Fruit Teas available on all major e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Alibaba and Rakuten. By the end of 2020, Mindy launched her newest innovation – DIY Boba Tea. With this new and easily available product, people around the world now had the access to the Taiwanese special bubble tea, at the safety and comfort of their own homes. “I want to continue to bring our original Taiwanese taste to the whole world, no matter what happens,” smiles she. In 2021, BOBA CHiC won triple gold at the USA TITAN Business Award.

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An Encouragement for All Women

In Taiwan, like the rest of Asia, the gender barrier is quite evident, especially when it comes to being organizational figureheads. For Mindy however, barriers are meant to be broken. As a former Captain in the Taiwanese Army, Mindy has always gone above and beyond the call of duty in her personal and professional life. She shares, “In the Army, I pushed myself to work harder than other male officers. I did everything possible to prove that I am good, even better than the other male officer.” Mindy’s exemplary work was recognized by her Army superiors as well resulting in her receiving a well-deserved promotion that led to her outranking most male officers she served with.

Moreover, having done her master’s in public policy from Claremont Graduate University in the USA, Mindy says that she is well equipped to lead the development of organizations and individuals alike. Today, through her own organization and the various gender equality initiatives she is involved in, Mindy continues to create new pathways, encouraging women to go out and become leaders of their own lives and fields.  

She says, “we, Asian women, need to love ourselves more, and find our own unique values in order to CHIC ourselves. Therefore, I created the slogan – MY CHIC, MY RULE – to encourage Asian women to stand up, speak out and be the leaders of their own lives and professional journeys.”

Mindy’s social upliftment initiatives do not stop only at women empowerment. In 2020, when a study concluded that black tea acts as anti-viral to the then prevalent Covid-19 pandemic, Mindy and James collected whatever black tea they had and donated 100,000 bags to local hospitals. Additionally, Mindy is a World Vision member who has been donating to uplift underrepresented girls in Peru for the last 10 years. “I also regularly donate to Taiwan Institute of Foetal Medicine, which is an institute to help the mothers and families who have kids with birth defects,” shares she.

Owing to her constant effort aimed at the empowerment of Asian women in business, in 2021 and 2022, Mindy was also a part of the Dream Builder Project, an upliftment initiative by the American Institute, Taiwan. Here she trained and mentored young female entrepreneurs, many of whom she remains in constant touch with.     

Brewing On

In the post-pandemic world, BOBA EMPIRE and BOBA CHiC are poised for growth. Once a local delight, bubble tea has now made it into the homes of tea enthusiasts all across the globe. Mindy’s constant efforts to scale her businesses, continually innovate, and enable others to start their own ventures have led to her being recognized as a business revolutionary in Taiwan and the rest of the world.

Looking into the future, Mindy remains committed to thrusting her brand to unscaled heights by introducing even more Taiwanese drinking delights to the rest of the world. “In the ever-changing market, we stand upright and proud… like an eagle, fluttering our wings in the sky; soaring high and bringing our faith and products worldwide.”

As for all the young women out there on their own professional journeys, Mindy says, “Keep moving forward, and don’t be afraid! Remember, you yourself are the best person in your life. Be yourself, chic yourself, make your own life goals, and shine!”.

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