Jaja Chen and Devin Li, co-owners of Cha Community.
The founders of Cha Community aim to celebrate their Asian American heritage and traditions while promoting their core values. — Cha Community

A strong value proposition can help a business stand out from its competitors and clearly present the advantages of its products or services. Jaja Chen, Co-owner of Cha Community in central Texas, has cultivated a large group of loyal customers by embodying her boba tea and Asian food business’s three core values: community, diversity, and courage.

“I always believe it starts with the founders or owners first,” Chen said. “So, we ourselves have to be walking out in those values of community, diversity, and courage.”

Chen and her partner and Co-owner Devin Li demonstrate these values to customers every day by collaborating with local small businesses, hosting community events, and holding regular staff training sessions. And their hard work has paid off: Cha Community won the Minority-Owned Business Achievement Award at CO—’s 2022 Dream Big Awards.

Creating community through collaboration

Cha Community started out as a pop-up tent at a Waco, Texas farmer’s market and grew into a brick-and-mortar business with two Texas locations. The restaurant serves traditional Taiwanese food and beverages, including boba tea (or bubble milk tea) and pan-fried dumplings. It is one of the first Taiwanese food businesses in the area.

“Being [from] an Asian American and immigrant background, a huge part of our business has been telling the cultural narratives and heritage of the food and drinks we sell,” Chen said. “A lot of the ways that we've stood out [have been by] providing a lot more diverse food offerings that you could not find prior to us here in central Texas, and then also putting a lot of focus on creating premium ingredients.”

One of the most unique aspects of Cha Community is its collaboration with other small businesses in the area. Most recently, Chen used Cha Community to host a minority-owned small business holiday vendor fair. About 14 different vendors set up pop-up tents in and around Chen’s business to sell handcrafted goods.

“I think [collaboration is] part of our culture [and] heritage as Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants. [We’ve had] to create so much belonging in spaces for our own selves since all our family is overseas,” Chen said. “Infusing those values of community, hospitality, and care into our small business and as business owners has been key.”

[Read more: How To Get More Involved With Your Community]

The problem we're trying to solve is not just about the food or the drinks, but really it's about the lack of belonging and connection, the lack of diverse offerings and cultural representation, especially for the AAPI community here in central Texas.

Jaja Chen, Co-owner, Cha Community

Cultivating community internally

Chen and Li have worked hard to make Cha Community a safe, supportive space, which starts with providing their employees with the right training.

Cha Community employees have quarterly team trainings and casual monthly team gatherings. Chen also offers opportunities for internal promotions and leadership development. According to Chen, this results in a low turnover rate.

Cha Community also works with nonprofit organizations like the Un-Included Club, a nonprofit that provides literacy, urban agriculture, and leadership programs to local youths. In fact, Un-Included Club provided the microgreens that Cha Community uses in one of their traditional Taiwanese soups.

“It's seemingly small things like that [that are] ways you can still make an impact or give back to the community, whether through a partnership or even through sponsorships or financial aid, and start to make a difference within the actual cities or communities that you’re a part of,” Chen said.

Sharing your value proposition online

Chen has a background in social work, and she uses this to help educate her community on how they can embody the values of community, diversity, and courage. Cha Community sends an email newsletter every other week with resources pertaining to these values and events happening in the community.

Above all else, Chen continues to promote the story of Cha Community to connect with those around her.

“The problem we're trying to solve is not just about the food or the drinks, but really it's about the lack of belonging and connection, the lack of diverse offerings and cultural representation, especially for the AAPI community here in central Texas,” she said.

[Read more: How Minority-Owned Businesses are Leveraging Social Media]

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