The following is a letter I wrote to our amazing team. Just like our country, they are young, scrappy, and hungry. Please keep us accountable as we continue to bridge cultures.
Andrew, Co-founder of Boba Guys x Tea People
Boba Guys and Gals,
As many of you know, this is Page 4 of our Boba Guys Training Manual. Page 4. Before all the hokey platitudes, Pokemon references, and dress code guidelines, we put a giant, loud, orange figure in your face. I want to keep a positive association with this page. =)
I was debating whether or not to comment about what happened last night. We are just a little boba shop and politics isn’t really our cup of tea. But given my position as a founder, spokesperson, and friend, I want to encourage you all to stick to our principles. As Conan’s quote says, “Don’t be cynical… nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” Even after yesterday, I stand by that creed.
We’ve been very fortunate to have grown Boba Guys from the ashes of the Great Recession. We attribute of a lot our success to the macro-climate of change. President Obama and his team did a remarkable job steering us through a crazy time. I know because many of my friends were on the front lines, protecting our economy, government, and ideals. What happened isn't a direct reflection of his accomplishments.
That being said, as we have all witnessed, we left a huge portion of our country behind during our ascendance. BIGLY. HUGE. I spent four of my formative professional years at Wal-Mart serving everyday Americans-- and if there’s one thing I learned, it’s that we don’t listen to each other. We in the big metros aren’t familiar with their struggle. It's definitely an Us vs. Them mentality. Even I—as a consumer marketer that is supposed to speak to these people—felt like I was a foreigner in my own country. In hindsight, I bet they felt the same whenever they turned on the TV or visited “The Big City” on vacation. This was a huge lesson in empathy.
This isn’t just about Rural vs. Urban, or Proletariats vs. the Elites. This is about how two vastly different cultures can get along. As I told many of you this summer, no matter what happens, half of this country is going to be very unhappy and we need to get ready for that. And given that most of you are participating in our process for the very first time, I want to encourage you to have the audacity of hope. It’s easy to be jaded, apathetic, or bitter, but that’s the social inertia that has been tearing humanity apart for millennia.
This all comes back to our mission at Boba Guys: to bridge cultures. Bin and I envisioned a company that brought people from various backgrounds—ethnicity, gender, hometown, and social status—together. Whenever we look at our team and our guests packed into a small store, we smile and say, “This is what America should look like one day... And we need bigger stores." Some of you laugh when I say, “Boba Guys is a beautiful mosaic of people.” It’s true and I don’t care if it’s cheesy.
As Barry says, “Our brand of democracy is hard.” On a broader level, I say, “Our brand of Culture is hard.” To get a diverse group of individuals to agree on a common goal is like pushing a boulder uphill. If you like anthropology or history, you’ll know that humans are notoriously bad at getting along with people different from them. It’s why Bin and I even struggle with leading all 100+ of you! You folks are all so different… in a good way! =)
But to give up on bridging cultures is taking the easy way out. It even challenges Bin and I as your leaders because it shapes how best to run our company. Yes, as a business, we can serve a specific segment of the population and it’ll be 10X easier to operate. And yes, as a business, we can hire a very cookie-cutter team that is easier to mobilize. But that’s not our vision. And that wasn’t our Founding Fathers’ vision. In my best Hamilton voice, the line from the Declaration of Independence goes, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are equal.” All men and women.
So in the wake and ashes of a broken country, I ask that we all stay hopeful. It’s not like putting on a fake smile that we all do in front of our parents during the Holidays. It’s a optimistic smile knowing that this is the best opportunity for us Millennials—yes, I am born in 1982 so I am one of you—to show that we can buck the trend of humanity. We can love more than hate. We can work alongside the new—albeit different— regime to bridge cultures.
I can tell you that being stubborn is only going to make this worse. Like at the end of Frozen, it took the warmth of Anna’s love to melt and change Elsa’s cold heart. As Dad as it sounds, that’s how it works in the real world. Well, we can't conjure frozen fractals, but you get the point.
No one wins when it’s hate vs. hate. Or apathy vs. passion. At best, it’s a stalemate. At worst, it’s worldwide chaos. We owe it to humanity to listen better and hope for the best in people.