Here's How Two Brothers Built A Billion-Dollar Empire With $1 Bubble Tea

Mixue has broken the boba mold by serving up tasty teas at affordable prices.

Cover image via SAYS

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Just when you thought the highly-competitive bubble tea industry had burst, a new challenger has come to take the crown

Image via SAYS

The iconic mascot, Snow King, is an apt representation of how this little bubble tea shop has taken over the country.

"I am Snow King. I hold an ice cream sceptre. I love ice cream and tea forever and ever."

That's how this little snowman has introduced himself to the world, but what's the story behind this seemingly simple brand?

Mixue has broken the boba mold by serving up tasty teas at affordable prices.

Here's the story of how a billion-dollar business was built on 1 yuan boba.

The story of Mixue begins with Zhang Hongchao and his brother, Zhang Hongwei, who grew up in the countryside in Henan, China. Their modest background gave them a strong work ethic and desire to succeed.

Zhang Hongchao, founder of Mixue.

Image via CNN

As a young teenager, Hongchao, the elder of the two brothers, would repair motorcyles, and work as a food clerk and farmer. Through self-study, he later entered the Henan University of Economics and Law in 1996.

A year later, Hongchao would borrow 3000 yuan (RM1,900) from his grandmother to set up a shaved ice shop in Zhengzhou. While it would be the start of Mixue, his first shop wouldn't last long.

In 1997, Hongchao's first shaved ice business went bust and he later closed three stores in little over a year

Frustrated with his struggling business, Hongchao moved to another city to sell ice sugar gourd (also known as tanghulu or candied fruits), but once again failed.

In the spring of 1999, Hongchao returned to his hometown and opened a new cold drink shop, which would lay the foundation for Mixue. Again, the business struggled with four shops getting demolished over four years.

Ice sugar gourds. Image used for illustration purposes only.

Image via Pinterest

But in 2000, Hongchae finally saw success with the launch of the very first Mixue

Together with his brother, Hongwei, the Zhang brothers managed and grew the business. Mixue gained a good reputation, and with its location near a school, garnered a fanbase of students.

The Zhang brothers' entrepreneur journey eventually stabilised when they discovered the magic formula — quality bubble tea at disruptive pricing. Retailing at just 1 yuan, Mixue became accessible to a wide range of consumers and created a cult following among the younger gen.

In 2006, Mixue added soft serve ice cream to their menu.

How does Mixue maintain their low prices in a highly competitive industry? They built their own factory.

In 2012, Henan Daga Food Company Ltd. was established, allowing Mixue Ice Cream & Tea to produce core raw materials and patent their own technologies.

As Mixue's popularity soared, the brothers seized the opportunity to expand their business beyond the borders of Zhengzhou

Their first foray into international markets came in 2018, with Vietnam serving as the launchpad for Mixue's overseas expansion.

Through meticulous market research and a tailored approach to local tastes, the brothers successfully introduced Mixue's affordable yet innovative offerings to a new audience, further solidifying their status as industry disruptors.

In 2022, Mixue entered the Malaysian market

By then, news of their cheap milk tea and ice cream had spread via social media, with their catchy theme song garnering over six billion views online globally.

Image via SAYS

With their original Jasmine tea priced at RM3, signature milk tea priced at RM5, and soft serve ice cream at RM2, you've surely seen long lines of customers at these little kiosks in shopping malls across Malaysia.

And it's not just their consumer prices. Budding business owners can enjoy a lower entry point at only RM8,000 to open a Mixue franchise. In contrast, other bubble tea players in the market charge almost ten times the amount, as well as a royalty fee.

Today, there are over 240 Mixue stores operating across Malaysia, with more opening soon.

Image via SAYS

Mixue stands as a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit and vision of two brothers who dared to dream big

Their journey from a small shaved ice shop to a billion-dollar beverage empire serves as inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs around the world.

But perhaps more importantly, Mixue's success is a reminder that innovation and affordability can go hand in hand. 

Sources: Mixue, Panda!YooKC Lau, Forbes

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