The students shuffle onto the carpeted patio and up to the counter where Michelle is taking orders. One guy asks for a concoction of milk and tea with a little chocolate. “QiaoKouLi Nai Cha!” yells Michelle to her friend Viola who is throwing together drinks at lightning speed. This is Michelle and Viola’s drink shop, Tea Story, and today is opening night.
Michelle is a sophomore. She was one of my students last year, studying English for cruise ships (yes that’s a major at our school). On our first day of class, she told me, “My English name is Michelle, like Michelle Obama. I want to be a great lady like her.” I have seen her growing into a great lady over the last year. She has a lot of heart and a good sense of humor.
Viola was born to be a boss. She is Michelle’s roommate and is in the same class. I enjoy her sass, even if it usually only comes out in Chinese. She is strong and knows how to take care of business. She also has one of the best laughs I have ever heard.
About a month ago, the girls mentioned to me that they were thinking of opening a drink shop on campus. They wanted to ask my advice about bargaining with the owner of a venue that has been sitting empty next to the cafeteria for the last year. We talked about what percent of the profit they should ask for, how many hours they should keep the place open each week, and how to gauge whether this guy would be a good business partner. At the time, I wasn’t actually sure if they were serious, or if this was some kind of pipe dream.
A week later, Michelle called, asking me to come look at the shop. Having been empty for over a year, the place needed a lot of cleaning up and some interior decoration. She and Viola explained their plans for the decor and the type of atmosphere they are going for. “We want the theme to be countryside,” said Michelle “with flowers and trees and maybe we will paint it green and blue.” It was cool to see them starting to get their idea off the ground. Now the question was, would this place fly?
A week ago, Michelle and Viola’s drink shop had it’s grand opening. The place was packed with students, eager to sample the half-price drinks and get a free VIP card. There was a festive atmosphere filling the place as people played pick up games of pool, sang some KTV, and unwound after a long week of classes.
Since, that first night, there have been hoards of students in the shop every evening after night class. It’s becoming a popular hang out spot for all the students who live on the West campus of our school. For now, it looks like this business will be a success.