Bins of boba balls and boxes of tea ingredients litter nearly every surface inside the apartment of recent UCLA graduates David Mangold and Vince Ho. In the comfort of their kitchen, the pair has spent the past several months perfecting the boba tea recipes for their latest business venture – Koala Tea.
This Saturday, Mangold and Ho will be hitting the streets of Westwood in a boba truck to put their teas to the test. Next spring, they hope to expand their budding business into a shop on Weyburn Avenue.
“I love being able to think of something and make it exist months later,” Mangold said.
Mangold and Ho met during their first year at UCLA, and soon bonded over a mutual interest in business. They continued to work together and inspire each other over the years, Ho said.
“(Business) is one of those things where you could put in 15 hours and not even notice,” Ho said. “It becomes your baby.”
Over the summer, Mangold and Ho founded Koala Tea with the financial support of Mangold’s family friend, a businessman based in China who wanted to expand into American markets with boba tea.
While waiting for permits to be finalized before the store’s official opening in the spring, they are still paying rent on the property and are working out of a boba truck to avoid losing money, Ho said.
During winter quarter of their junior year, Mangold, who was on track to be an accountant, and Ho, who planned to be a lawyer, had a serious conversation about changing their career paths, Mangold said.
“We asked ourselves if we could do anything else and still make the same amount of money, what would it be? We both said business,” Ho said.
After completing an auditing internship with an accounting firm that summer, Mangold said he gradually became disillusioned with the idea of working with a large firm.
“I didn’t want to be branded as an accountant. I wanted to do my own thing,” Mangold said of his decision to leave the firm he was interning at.
Meanwhile, Ho enjoyed interning at a law firm, but he didn’t want to go to professional school while young – preferring to go into business for himself instead.
Ho said that he chose to have a fulfilling career rather than pleasing his parents by pursuing law.
Mangold and Ho said they wanted to create a social atmosphere in their store, where students could hang out, study or attend entrepreneurial workshops.
“Boba brought us together. It was the one thing we could always agree on getting despite our differences,” said Tom Dang, one of Mangold and Ho’s Theta Xi fraternity brothers and social media director for Koala Tea.
Dang said he thinks Koala Tea is part of an effort to support mom-and-pop shops and revive local businesses in the Village.
Mangold and Ho are assembling a team of close friends to help manage the project in preparation for the shop’s opening and said they have been approached by many friends seeking employment opportunities.
“We want students to feel like it’s their friends that are making the tea,” Ho said.