MILWAUKEE & GLENDALE, WI (CBS 58) – “Spread the positiviTEA.”
That’s what the neon sign reads in a young Milwaukee entrepreneur’s bubble tea shop.
Through years of hard work, even while still finishing college, Manpreet Singh is staying true to that mission.
Singh is 26 years old. He has lived in Milwaukee since 2001 and has made his name known in the last few years as a business owner and a bubble tea connoisseur.
Joining the business world just three years ago, Singh has an impressive resume for a uniquely young entrepreneur.
“My parents took the whole risk of coming to a whole other country, so I was like, I can take the risk of opening a business,” Singh said, “At the end of the day I just kind of winged it, tried it, and landed where I was.”
Singh is the owner of SereniTea, a shop that serves different flavors of milk tea with balls of tapioca and other add-ins.
Bubble tea, also known as “Boba,” is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Singh wanted to show off the culture to Milwaukee.
“It originated in Taiwan and has been brought over here the past couple decades,” Singh said, “That’s why you can see in some of the shops here, we do have anime paintings. It just brings a little culture together.”
While Singh himself didn’t grow up in Taiwanese culture, he has a great respect for it.
He loves that boba has become a cultural phenomenon, from TikTok to Instagram.
It’s unique, exciting and has a broad combination of flavors, so it can appeal to everyone.
“I wanted to open up a business that had a huge social aspect to it. Right now, people come in groups, they come in families of four or five, they come in, they sit, they drink,” Singh said, “I won’t even lie, it came in my head, and I was like, I’m gonna go with it!”
Singh joined the business world at an early (and busy) age. He was inspired to open SereniTea while he was a student at Marquette University.
He opened his first shop on Maquette’s campus, while he was just 23 years old.
“It was a really cool moment. My friends were helping me out, the friends I had been going to classes with. So just knowing they were helping me open my business, it just felt like I was part of the community. Not that I left it, but that I was still part of it and growing with it,” Singh said.
SereniTea opened in October 2019, leading into a first year of serious challenges.
“That was a really weird year. We had a cold front that year, and then covid hit really four months after. So, my opening was not fun. It was not ideal for a new business, but the community was great, the business held up, and we actually kept growing,” Singh said.
2020 was reality check early in Singh’s career, but he didn’t let the roadblocks stop him.
Two years later, Singh celebrated SereniTea’s second location at Bayshore mall.
“Opening the second location was a huge thing for me. It meant a lot, because I really didn’t know if I wanted to continue to move further, but seeing the success of the first one, I think I could bring it to Bayshore.”
SereniTea became successful venture, while Singh is still working toward a college degree. However, he says he would have been completely lost without help from his father.
Singh’s parents immigrated from India before he was born, and his dad has always been a businessman.
“He’s actually been working in the retail industry pretty much his whole life, and now he has a grocery store of his own. So, i kind of saw that business aspect of it, retail sale, food, pretty much. He actually encouraged me – he was like hey, if you think it’s a good idea, go for it. He helped me out, he gave me wisdom in terms of financials and stuff,” Singh said.
If his parents had any nerves about his endeavor, they didn’t let it show. Instead, they pushed their son forward, their own admirable work ethics as an example.
“It has been great to have them as my role models. They encourage me pretty much to work hard, do all I can to make sure I do the right thing,” Singh said.
That support system is part of a driving force to keep it up.
“They’re honestly very proud, and I’m grateful for that, because obviously all I want to do is make them proud too. So, I want to make sure my parents can retire, so I can take care of them,” Singh said.
He isn’t just running his shops from higher-up. If you walk into either location, you’ll likely to see him behind the counter.
“I like to think of myself as very hands-on because it’s my baby. I’ve said that since I opened. Obviously, I love the days I’m not here, but I also want to make sure that not only the business, but the employees themselves aren’t overburdened,” Singh said.
He also doesn’t want Milwaukee’s scene of young entrepreneurs to stay small and welcomes friendly competition.
His advice to those looking to start out:
“I would encourage anyone who has an idea to take the risk in going forward with it, because you never know what’ll happen. You might be the next Elon Musk, ya’know? You never know,” Singh said. “If you don’t take the chance, you never know what’s going to happen. You’ll always think ‘what if?'”