Originally from China, husband and wife entrepreneurial team, Qin Liu and Rong Pan graduated from the Leeds School of Business at Colorado University with the dream of starting their own company. The original business idea was from Qin’s Business Plan Preparation class while enrolled in CU. In 2005, they launched their business, drawing upon the 5000-year-old tradition of drinking tea.
In 2007, Qin and Rong changed the company’s original name from “The Leaf – All Things Tea” to its now widely-recognized, “Ku Cha House of Tea,” which translates to “Bitter Tea” in Chinese. Since its inception, Ku Cha has grown tremendously, now with two brick and mortar locations, one in Fort Collins, and their flagship located on the iconic Pearl Street Mall. In just over a decade, with the help of a nominal SBA loan of $2,000, Ku Cha House of tea has grown from 3 employees and one location to 23 employees who support a large warehouse and two retail shops.
Ku Cha House of Tea has certainly seen steady growth, but as with most entrepreneurial endeavors, this success has not come without challenges. Shortly after the company formation, Qin and Rong discovered the myriad of business factors for which they were now responsible. Like most founders, they wanted to see their business succeed, and in order to do that, they needed to understand inventory management, sales analysis, marketing strategy and tactics, accounting and finance, real estate, and much more. Lead SBDC Consultant, Chuck Hunker once told them, “As a small business owner, we have to be good at so many things!” He was certainly right, but as Rong and Qin have discovered, there are people and organizations like Boulder SBDC who are there to help.
Boulder SBDC has continued to help Ku Cha House of tea refine their business and their brand. As Ku Cha now embarks on their next phase of growth, SBDC consultants are waiting in the wings to assist. Ku Cha’s three main goals for 2018 are: 1) Design and implement a franchise model 2) Promote tea education throughout the community and 3) Strengthen the Ku Cha House of tea brand.
When asked what has been the biggest takeaway from their work with the SBDC, Qin said, “Ms. Sharon King has been a tremendous source of help to Ku Cha’s growth. She has connected us with quite a few very good consultants who assisted with various aspects of business operations. She is an affectionate Ku Cha advocate.”
Rong went on to share, “As a business owner and influential leader, [Sharon King] has been very inspiring to me.”
Even in the midst of expansion, Qin and Rong remain connected to the mission of their business: to bring high quality, flavorful tea to their community. In doing so, they also impart to their customers a long-standing tradition of enjoying a beverage that is not only medicinal but also builds experiences among friends and family.