Students Show Their Entrepreneurial Spirit
Sinuo (Snow) Li '19 in front of YoBo Cafe.
Photo: Christa Neu
Along the busy streets of Bethlehem, passersby can escape the noise and traffic at YoBo Cafe, a serene bubble tea shop co-owned by Sinuo (Snow) Li ’19. The finance and statistics major happily talks to customers as she fills their order at an open kitchen area lined with bubble tea shakers, blenders, syrups and fruit purees. She places homemade tapioca balls into a cup as she follows recipes she created or replicated.
Li is a self-proclaimed bubble tea enthusiast. Every time she visited New York or went back home to China, she said, she tried different flavors ranging from purple taro to black tea. After settling on her favorites, she wanted to bring the sweet drink to south Bethlehem.
Because of her ability to maintain a business while working toward her degree, Li is among the 2018 winners of the Leonard P. Pool Memorial Prize, which awards students’ entrepreneurial spirit. Also among the winners are Arthur (Trey) Cuddy ’19, a mechanical engineering major with a minor in business, and Jordan Cutler ’19, who is pursuing a degree in computer science and business.
“Someone does think this is valuable,” said Li, reflecting on the award, “and it encourages me to keep my faith in the business and conquer all the difficulties.”
Cuddy, who was awarded the prize for his online photography business titled Trey Cuddy Photography, said he hadn’t considered selling his photos until family members began complimenting him on his work. He now sells the photos, which capture the beauty of his home state of Rhode Island and the New England area, as note cards, high-quality prints and wall calendars.
He said he wanted to photograph places that people recognize so that they have a connection to what they order. A goal is to have people look away from their phones and embrace what’s around them, like he did when he first started taking photos.
“Just going outside to take pictures allowed me to see things that I wouldn’t take the time to see before having a camera,” he said. “It kind of opened my eyes to take a step back and appreciate the outdoors.”
Cutler created an online tutoring business after watching fellow students struggle in their computer science classes. Some, he said, considered changing majors out of fear they wouldn’t pass their courses. Cutler said he didn’t want his peers to struggle, so he created NextdoorTutor—so named to show students that help is available.
Although tutoring services are available at Lehigh, Cutler said he wanted to provide an additional resource. He said students who use NextdoorTutor aren’t assigned to a particular tutor. Instead, they can scroll through tutor profiles to compare experiences and hourly rates. They can select more than one tutor. Rates vary, from nominal to $32 an hour. Tutors also don’t have to go through an interview process and can decide how many hours per week they will tutor. Cutler said his interest in creating a business with students as the target audience occurred to him while he was taking a software ventures class.
Li said she wanted to think beyond Lehigh and create healthy bubble teas for the south Bethlehem community. Although she and co-founder Yulun Wu ’18 were ambitious, they soon realized that starting a business was not easy. “Not a lot of people knew about us or even liked bubble tea,” Li said. “Instead they chose already established cafés.”
After advertising, adding more menu options, introducing boxes of snacks to purchase and hiring full-time and part-time employees, the shop increased in popularity.
Story by Madison Hoff '19