Tuesday, 15 April 2021 00:00

Success is brewing for family business

Liam and May Gem of Tempo Tea Bar (Small)

A brother and sister gave up their high flying jobs to bring a piece of their childhood to Glasgow, by opening their own bubble tea room.

May Gem Tan, and her brother Liam, first tasted bubble tea on holidays to visit their family in Malaysia. The drink, which originates in Taiwan, is tea-based and infused with fruit or milk containing small tapioca balls in the bottom.

The refreshing fruit tea was always a highlight of May Gem’s childhood holidays, and when she saw that bubble tea shops were popping up in London, she decided to bring the tea to Glasgow.

A year later and with support from Business Gateway, the siblings opened up Tempo Tea Bar.

May Gem who graduated in Finance and Economics at Strathclyde University was working as a collateral analyst for a large financial institution, while Liam who studied Mechanical Engineering, was working as a pipeline engineer in the Oil and Gas industry.

However, both felt unfulfilled with their careers and wanted to set up their own business. When May Gem realised that bubble tea was becoming popular with people outside the Asian community, she told Liam her idea and together they decided to take the plunge.

May Gem said: “When I left university I moved into a graduate programme as it seemed like the natural thing to do, and as I started out I imagined myself going through the normal path of building a career, but after a short time I realised that working in an office environment just wasn’t for me.

My brother was going through the same feelings with his job after eight years, so we began to think about starting something of our own.

“On a trip to London I was amazed to see a bubble tea shop that was packed with customers. Our parents are Malaysian so we often visited Malaysia to see family and that’s where we first tasted bubble tea. But we never knew what it was called in English, and we used to describe it as ‘the drink with little balls’. Seeing the shop brought back lovely memories of our trips, and that’s when I realised that it didn’t need to be sold solely in the traditional style, but in multiple different flavours.”

May Gem and Liam began planning the company in 2012 and after months of testing drinks to make sure they had the perfect taste and texture, and creating the brand, they found the perfect premises in Queen Street.

Since opening, they have been overwhelmed with the response, as tea enthusiasts have been queuing up to taste the fruity or milky concoctions Tempo Tea has created. By using social media channels including Facebook and Instagram, May Gem and Liam have steadily built up the business’s profile and in the process have introduced hundreds of Glaswegians to bubble tea.

May Gem added: “The feedback we have had has been fantastic, and so many people are loving our teas. We do try to come up with different and exciting flavours so that we are constantly offering something different. The response has been so encouraging that we hope we can expand into other cities in Scotland, so that will be our main aim for the company in the coming years.

“We have never run a business before and the advice we received from Business Gateway has helped us a huge amount. The support we have had from our adviser has saved us a lot of time and money, and he frequently flagged up issues which we, as entrepreneurial novices, hadn’t taken into consideration. We’ve realised it is always good to get someone from the outside to look at your business, who can see things that we might miss or not think of.”

Bill Cameron, Business Adviser, Business Gateway Glasgow said: “We have supported May Gem and Liam with marketing strategies and talked through ideas on how they could get Tempo Tea Bar known to the public. We also steered them in the direction of potential grants that they would be eligible for, which they were successful in getting. Tempo Tea Bar has huge potential and both May Gem and Liam are very ambitious and keen to learn. We look forward to continuing to support Tempo Tea Bar as it develops.”

Business Gateway provides practical help, advice and support for new and growing businesses throughout Scotland. To find out exactly what is on offer in your area visit www.bgateway.com or call 0845 609 6611, alternatively contact your local office directly on 0141 276 5333.

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