How my friends and I successfully sold BOBA on my college campus

Juan David Campolargo
13 min readMay 12, 2023

This story was originally posted here. For better-quality videos, please read the story here.

From ZERO to boba-selling HEROES, this is the story of setting up a boba business in 30 minutes with a tasty product and powerful distribution.

Follow our journey filled with unexpected twists and turns in this epic tale of resourcefulness, fun, and most importantly BOBA🧋🧋🧋!

I came across a tweet from @DStrachman.

And it got me thinking, why not give it a shot? With finals done and friends available, we have the time and motivation to build and work on something cool.

#1517lemonade #1517boba

Danielle Strachman 💗🐈 (@DStrachman):

🍋 What would be your lemonade stand on campus?

Let’s host a friendly competition for the rest of May!!

Build your version of a lemonade stand on campus. Build in public on Twitter #1517lemonade

🚀 Winning teams gets $1K to build a better version in the fall.

I suggested the idea to my friend Alex, who is always down for anything, but we didn’t finalize anything as he had been busy.

Wednesday came and I had no idea I’d be running around selling boba by 4 PM that day.

Here’s a breakdown of my day:

8:00 AM — Balloon Launch

For fun, @qwertpas3 and his friend built a balloon that could travel around the world and reach up to 40,000 ft, and they were launching it.

@iamianiamianb and I helped them with the setup and curiously waited for the balloon to take altitude.


2:00 PM — Back to campus

After debugging and FAA calls, the balloon flew!

Btw, @DStrachman, Chris (@qwertpas3) is the guy building the robotic squirrel that will pass the Squirrel Turing Test. He’s taking next semester off to work on the squirrel and he’ll email you soon😉.

3:00 PM — “we doing boba today?”

Alex reminds me of the boba challenge and I told him to get ready. He’s a force of nature (you’ll see that later).

Now we need a few more hands so I recruited two more friends, Guha, and Annamalai.

We made a quick call to our friend Annamalai, who was getting ready for the gym. I told him the gym will be open forever but this opportunity won’t be.

The next thing he said was, “Where are you guys?”

Next, we called our friend Guha and she was ready and excited to join us.

3:49 PM — Team Assembled

We’re a team of four, but we have nothing else. No ingredients, table, signs, or any idea of how to make boba. To be honest, I’ve never even tasted it!

But what we do have is energy and a willingness to move mountains to make the impossible happen.

By the way, what the hell is boba🧋?

Interestingly, boba has become extremely popular among young people these days, and they are willing to pay a high price for it.

@micsolana, this is an answer to the question you asked me a few weeks ago.

4:15 PM — Boba Ingredients

To make boba, we need boba (aka tapioca pearls). But where the hell do we get that thing from?

One of us said, “Let’s go to a boba shop and get it from there.”

GENIUS IDEA so we make our way there.

This is a video of us at the Boba shop.

4:17 PM — Cheaper boba?

I greeted the owner in Chinese with “你好, 你有波巴吗?” (nĭ hăo, nĭ yŏu bō bā ma?), and then Alex took over.

A friend spotted me and explained to him the plan and told us to talk to the manager next door.

4:18 PM — No free boba this time

We tried to talk to the manager but he wasn’t there so we went back to the boba shop we were in to try to bargain with the employees to get our supply for the day.

4:22 PM — Distribution Loading…

While we waited for the manager to be called, I got the distribution ready and started teasing on the @UIUCFreeFood.

And now we head back to the boba shop we were just in.

4:24 PM — Almost getting the Boba

We finally convinced them to give us the boba but now we’re trying to negotiate the price.

We got it down to $20 but now they want cash but we were missing $3.

Here’s Alex negotiating with the employees:

4:26 PM — Begging for $3

First, we tried asking every single customer in the store to give us $3.

But no one gave us money!!!!

We found another approach though.

4:28 PM — Exchanging Digital Money

We found a couple and they agreed to exchange us $3 after I Venmo’ed him.


We bought two boba balls cups and we were ready.

We tried to get free straws and we got like 10 (really 20 because we cut them by half).

But now we needed cups, milk, a sign, etc…..

“Could we get it for free/really cheap somewhere? — My first thought

4:30 PM — Feeling HYPE!!!

We got the boba and we were unstoppable.

4:30 PM — Truly unstoppable

A quick reflection and takeaway on that whole experience:

4:35 PM — Milk, Cups, and Sign SECURE

4:39 PM — Total Costs

Boba Cups: $20
Cups, Milk, etc: $26.03

Total cost: $46.03

We did not spend a single dime after this.

In retrospect, I could have gotten free cups, free milk, and free poster but that would be at least 45 more minutes.

4:40 PM — One More Recruitment

@aaryamanpatel, the cohost of @UIUCTalkshow.

This is what I texted him.

A few minutes later: table secured!!!

4:42 PM — We still need straws

We tried at a couple shops but not much luck…

4:43 PM — How much will we charge?

On our way there, we started thinking about the price.

This is what our initial discussion looked like:

4:46 PM — Setting the table

Beautiful day.

Not as packed as I would have liked it to be but that just means we will have to go after people.

5:05 PM — First Customer Before Setting Shop

I saw a friend walking by and we got our first customer!!!!!!

5:08 PM — More distribution

We’re still setting up but distribution is way more important than the quality of the boba itself.

So I “borrowed” everybody’s phone and started posting Snapchat stories and sending messages to every single one of them.

5:10 PM — And more distribution

Any young person (Gen Z, etc) is always checking Snapchat so if you want to reach them, @Snapchat stories is the way to go!

@evanspiegel, I got some ideas. Hit me up!

5:17 PM — Have I talked about distribution yet?

I revealed the specific location and time for the boba sale. I wanted to big a line to create curiosity in people’s minds.

Also, we raised our boba prices as it’s easier to lower them later if needed.

UIUC Free Food (@UIUCFreeFood):

5:30 PM


The first 10 people will get FREE BOBA and then just $1.99.

5:24 PM — The Magic of Distribution

Within a few minutes, people started showing up, and to our surprise, we didn’t even have our table set up yet.

When I asked one of our customers how she found out about the event, you guessed it, she said, “@UIUCFreeFood.”

5:26 PM — People Lining Up

That’s what I wanted: a line of people.

People will bring more people and create a sense of “WTF is going on?”

And more people will come.

5:30 PM — Table, Boba, and Sign Ready

A quick video showing our operations:

5:40 PM — Giving out Free Bobas

We gave away 10 free bobas but we had more than 10 people.

Will the people behind end up buying? I had no idea.


The answer was YES. But now what?

The line was gone within seconds and now we needed to start selling.

Distribution should start working now but it might take some time.

Where will we find more people? Go person to person in the quad.

5:42 PM — Price Elasticity of Demand

We started at $1.99 instead of $0.99 but we tried selling it to about 10 people but no one would buy.

We decided to go back to $0.99 and try to see what people say.

5:44 PM — $0.99 Works

We brought about 8 more people.

In fact, we started offering new services/products on the go.

For the customer in the video, he wanted to experience making the boba so we taught him and charged him more for it (just kidding but new product idea).

6:08 PM — $0.99 or $1.99?

We continue trying different prices depending on the customer. A risky endeavor that could upset some customers but it was a big experiment and we were all in.

6:20 PM — People Keep Coming

And we continue making more boba.

6:36 PM — FUN TIMES 🎉💥

As we brewed the boba, the atmosphere was electric with excitement. Jokes and laughter filled the air as we shared stories and caught up with each other.

We genuinely enjoyed each other’s company and the experience of creating something together.

6:49 PM- Creative Customer Acquisition

Dances, performances, yelling, and more.

In the video, we recruited another friend holding the banner.

We really got creative.

Wait until you see the next video…

6:55 PM — (1/3) Alex’s Way of Getting Customers

I told you that Alex is a force of nature, and I really mean it.

6:59 PM — (2/3) Alex’s Way of Getting Customers

Four minutes later, he goes after the same guy.

This time, Alex does a lap with him.

7:03 PM — (3/3) Alex’s Way of Getting Customers

Alex finished the lap with the guy. He didn’t end up buying but Alex made a new friend.

7:19 PM — Me making a pitch to a customer

After about five minutes of convincing, he ended up buying!!!

7:20 PM — Funneling People WORKS

Alex went around all the way down asking people if they wanted to buy boba, and some of them did come!!!

Here’s a video of them arriving to buy boba. We thought all of them would buy but only one did.

7:25 PM — This was fun and more fun

We kept selling more and more boba but we also had a ton of fun.

Here, a friend and me arm-wrestling.

7:29 PM — Our Boba Quality

We were so busy trying to sell and get customers that we had not tried our product yet.

And to our surprise, it was actually good!

7:36 PM — Minute 1 Mindset

Fewer and fewer people started to walk by but we still worked hard to find customers.

I’m realizing lots of the videos we took are usually Alex, and that’s because he was the funniest.

In my case, I was more classy/traditional style.

8:06 PM — Endgame

We ran out of milk and people stopped walking by. It was also darker now.

Analysis coming…

8:09 PM — Eating Our Supply

We did not want to throw anything away so everyone who contributed got a FREE BOBA.


Alex keeping the energy going!!

Analysis Section:

👥 Marketing
🛟Future Goals


🧐1. Ask and You Shall Receive: Asking for what you need is key to getting things done. We went to a local boba shop and asked to buy boba, and although it was initially met with confusion, we ended up getting what we needed.

Similarly, we asked restaurants for supplies like straws, ice, and gloves, and while some said no, most were willing to help us out. Sometimes, you just have to take the initiative and ask for what you need to make things happen.

🧐2. Ask for Forgiveness, Not Permission: After getting the boba and ingredients, we still needed a table. Buying one wasn’t an option, so we headed to the union and picked up a table without asking anyone.

We returned it in pristine condition after we were done, and no one seemed to mind. Sometimes, you have to take action without asking permission. If someone gets upset, apologize and move on. But often, people won’t even notice, so just go for it.

🧐3. The World is Malleable AF: This operation began with an idea I shared with Alex, which he helped remind me of. We then recruited about ten of our friends who supported us by buying boba and helping out.

This goes to show that with an idea, the right people, and the willingness to take action, anything is possible. We found the necessary ingredients and a table, made delicious boba, sold a lot of it, and had a blast.

Perhaps we weren’t ambitious enough, would we have solved climate change or AGI if we went with the same gusto? Probably.

🧐4. Distribution > product: “First-time founders focus on the product. Second-time founders focus on distribution.” — @justinkan.

One of my goals in 2023 was to become the best in the world in distribution and I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

People don’t just buy a product because it’s great; they buy it because 1) they want to support you and what you stand for, and because 2) they’ve seen it everywhere due to an insane distribution strategy. Distribution, distribution, distribution — that’s what matters.



$20 — Boba Balls
$26.03 — Sign, Two Milks, Two Chai Teas, and Cups.

Total Expenses: $46.03

$8.44 — Zelle
$2 — Apple Cash
$41.94 — Venmo
$68 — Cash

Total Revenue: $120.38

cc @adrianscottcom: we also offered crypto.


Revenue (120.38) — Expenses (46.03) \= $74.35

$74.35 $74.35 $74.35!!!

You can see the range of prices.

Another funny thing: if people came in pairs, we offered a deal of $5 for two bobas, even though it made more sense to buy them individually for $1.99 each.

💸How many customers?

We used about 80 cups, which is lower than I thought.

However, it’s possible that many people had already left school, and maybe the quad wasn’t the right place to set up our boba stand.

Perhaps we should have been in front of a boba shop and offered boba for 1/10th of the price. Not a bad idea, actually.

💸What will we do with the profit of $74.35?

We plan to reinvest it into @UIUCFreeFood and give away more free food.

What’s @UIUCFreeFood? A tool that provides free food for thousands of college students.

If you’re interested in supporting this cause, let’s talk.

Check out the impact UIUCFreeFood has made in the story here (https://juandavidcampolargo.substack....).

Unrelated: @UIUCFreeFood low-key already has a product-market fit, or at least that’s what @micsolana told me.

@mwseibel @paulg @paigeomura @gustaf @garrytan, @jesslivingston. Want to give us a YC interview?

We can be in SF next week. We’re similar to @bchesky and if we have to sell boba to survive until we create trillion-dollar companies, we will do it really well.

We’ve run a world podcast/show called The UIUC Talkshow (

👥 Marketing

Four strategies.

👥1. People who like boba will buy it just because: If you are walking around and someone is selling boba to you, and you love boba. You will not resist and you will buy the freaking boba. Nice and simple. These were about 10% of our customers.

👥2. People who like a good deal and will buy anything that sounds like one: 10% of our customers were people who are always looking for a good deal and tend to justify their purchases based on the perceived discount.

While they can be difficult to sell to, it’s important to explain to them what we are doing and why it’s a good deal. However, dealing with these customers can be time-consuming and energy-draining for the amount they end up buying.

👥3. People who like to support: These are nice people. Nice people are still around and would usually support anything that looks like hard work or a good cause. These were about 5%

👥4. Other:


👥5. More Marketing Strategies:

🛟 Future Goals

Well, that was a lot of fun.

This is just the beginning of following our obsessions.

This isn’t the first time and won’t be the last.

𝙅𝙪𝙖𝙣 𝘿𝙖𝙫𝙞𝙙 𝘾𝙖𝙢𝙥𝙤𝙡𝙖𝙧𝙜𝙤 (@jdcampolargo):

“If it takes you 10 hours to make a video, spend 10 hours thinking about how to make it viral” — @cory

Product matters but DISTRIBUTION is how we win.

Here’s how I spend 10 hours with a video and 10 hours with the distribution.




Juan David Campolargo

I do and share “stuff” that makes people more optimistic, ambitious, and curious. Learn more about me and read more (