Celebrating International Women’s Day: Meet The B-School Female Founders

Tina Chen, who studied at Imperial College Business School, created HumaniTea


Tina Chen, Imperial College Business School, HumaniTea

Hometown: Los Angeles, U.S.

Business Degree: Full-Time MBA

Why did you choose to study your course at Imperial College Business School?

Imperial College Business School is home to innovation, a diverse student body, and distinguished lecturers! I wanted to study for a one-year Full-Time MBA degree in the heart of London at a leading, world-renowned institution, so Imperial was a no-brainer for me. I was also impressed by the Full-Time MBA program which included a week abroad to learn about business in another country and the array of core courses and electives offered from finance to sustainability. I desired to start a business that brought both positive social and environmental impact, and Imperial offered courses in social impact and innovation. In addition, Imperial runs programs that are aimed at increasing the number of women in leadership positions, running start-ups, and raising funding so that was also a major deciding factor.

Tell us more about your company/organization and what you do?:

Are you seeking natural energy without the crash of coffee caffeine? Are you looking for a dairy-free, vegan alternative to your daily cuppa? Look no further than HumaniTea! Our refreshing Matcha and Earl Grey Oat Milk Tea Lattes exclude artificial flavors and emulsifiers, contain low sugar (<5%) and low calories (<70 kcal/can), and provide a boost of antioxidants and natural energy without a caffeine crash. We use oat milk instead of dairy, which is perfect for people who are vegan or lactose-intolerant because oat milk is one of the most eco-friendly milks available in terms of both emissions and water usage.

As Chief Tea Officer of HumaniTea, I’m involved in the day-to-day operations of the business as well as marketing and sales activities. My goal is to continue to bring our delicious plant-based tea lattes to as many people as possible, to increase sales and brand awareness, and to generate additional profit to help us flourish as a social enterprise. I aim to develop our range of healthy, innovative products with people and planet in mind and grow our tea beverage social enterprise to positively impact even more communities through supporting wellbeing and sustainability initiatives and expanding our areas of operation.

Was it always your goal to found a company?

When I was studying for my undergraduate degree in Business Economics at University of California, Los Angeles, I met a classmate who had raised around $1 million on Kickstarter. I became intrigued by the world of entrepreneurship and the concept of crowdfunding to fund one’s business idea. However, I desired to gain industry experience after I graduated, so when I received a job offer to join Accenture as a technology consultant, I happily took the opportunity. Working as a project manager for large-scale software implementations, I learned how to effectively manage diverse teams, boost team morale, and set actionable targets. After consulting for three years, I embarked on my MBA journey at Imperial College Business School. Participating in the Imperial College WE Innovate Programme run by the Imperial Enterprise Lab allowed me to experience the entrepreneurial world in a safe setting. I decided that entrepreneurship was the path I wanted to follow after completing my degree. So, I used to work in IT; now I work at HumaniTea: tech-loving foodie turned tea latte brewer.

What advice would you have for other entrepreneurial women that want to found a company?:

Finding the right support network is key to succeeding in business. I’ve utilised entrepreneurial communities like Virgin StartUp and Enterprise Nation and the strong UK network of food and drink founders through Bread & Jam’s The Food Hub. Many of us are facing similar challenges, like issues with logistics or getting hold of supermarket buyers, and we help each other out. I found my amazing supportive mentor through The British Library Mentoring Programme. And with the help of Cambridge Social Ventures Incubator and London Agri-Food Innovation Clinic, I successfully added a mission lock into our Articles of Association to make our business a social enterprise and created our first minimum viable product to bring to market.

How has your experience at business school helped you with your venture?:

During my Full-Time MBA at Imperial College Business School, I took courses in sustainability, social impact, and innovation and became active in the start-up scene on campus. My interest in starting a business that follows a triple bottom line business model grew. After graduating in 2018, I decided to tackle the problem of obesity-causing sugary drinks and encourage everyone to take tea breaks to find mindfulness by launching HumaniTea, a proud social enterprise supporting wellbeing and sustainability initiatives. Through utilising my connections at Imperial and the Enterprise Lab, I was able to receive the support and business advice needed to launch my oat milk tea latte drinks company HumaniTea. Inspired by Taiwanese bubble tea concept, HumaniTea produces the UK’s 1st plant-based tea lattes brewed with actual tea leaves and creamy oat milk.

What are your hopes for the future of women in business?:

I know many inspiring women who run their own businesses along with working part-time at a corporation and taking care of their young children. It’s great to see more and more women receive the recognition they deserve as owners of both small and large businesses. I’ve also witnessed growth of more diversity-focussed venture capital funds that want to invest in women-led enterprises, so I believe we’re heading in the right direction. Universities like Imperial College offer programmes that support female entrepreneurs through useful workshops and pitching sessions. The Imperial Enterprise Lab provides useful resources for students, ranging from business coaching, entrepreneurial speaker series, experts-in-residence sessions, and pitching and networking events. It’s a great space to receive support and meet fellow entrepreneurs. I hope more and more universities will provide opportunities for young women to develop their entrepreneurial and leadership skills.

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