Eden Ding and William Jiang, founders of The Boba Co., with their first product, the Boba Straw, during the #MadeBySFU product fair at SFU's Surrey campus.

Sustainable bubble tea straws launched at #MadeBySFU

October 31, 2018

Originally published on SFU News. This story has been featured in DailyHive

The Boba Co. and four other SFU-related ventures took home prizes from the university’s annual product competition, #MadeBySFU.

SFU Beedie School of Business student William Jiang and colleague Eden Ding co-founded The Boba Co., dedicated to creating innovative products and practical solutions for everyday business owners. They entered their first product, the Boba Straw, into #MadeBySFU. It's a duo-material, reusable straw with a sleek stainless-steel body and an integrated silicone tip to achieve the same comfort and experience you would get when drinking bubble tea with plastic straws.

The idea for Boba was conceived in light of the recent vote to ban plastic straws and foam take-out containers and cups across Vancouver, which takes in June 2019. Jiang and Ding identified an opportunity for an alternative to paper straws, which become soggy and are then unable to suck up bubble tea’s tapioca pearls.

"We tried other options like metal straws, but realized that it’s uncomfortable to drink out of, and leaves a metallic taste in your mouth," says Jiang. "We decided that we would take on this challenge and solve both problems: the discomfort from metal straws and the poor quality from paper straws."  

After introducing their product through #MadeBySFU, The Boba Co. launched a Kickstarter campaign to support production of their first order. In just 24 hours they raised 30 per cent of their goal.

#MadeBySFU is a collaboration between the SFU Spirit Shop and SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection celebrating product entrepreneurs at Simon Fraser University. The competition invites applications from the SFU community, including students, alumni, faculty and staff, and provides support to budding entrepreneurs through drop-in mentoring and a merchandising workshop. Finalists are showcased in a product fair at SFU Surrey.

“We always look forward to this event each year," says Mikhail Dzuba, director of the SFU Spirit Shop and of Document Solutions. "It’s a great opportunity to engage with the local community and acquire merchandise that tells a unique story about SFU.” 

The Boba. Co is one of five competition winners to each receive $750 purchase orders from the SFU Spirit Shop, along with a one-year Sage Accounting subscription.The five winning products will be featured this month in the SFU Spirit Shop in time for Christmas sales.

“We have a diverse innovation community here at SFU, one that we are proud to celebrate and support through interdisciplinary and customized programs like #MadeBySFU,” says Janice OBriain, director of Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection, and organizing host of the competition.

“We look forward to supporting these product entrepreneurs to grow their impact beyond SFU.”

The final competition was held at a product fair Oct. 17 2018 at SFU’s Surrey campus.


In addition to The Boba Co., the other four vendors to receive $750 SFU Spirit Shop purchase orders were:

  • Mountainview Essentials – Co-founded by a daughter-in-law (SFU communication alumna) /mother-in-law duo with a shared passion for natural living, Mountainview Essentials offers small-batch essential oil candles held in original hand-thrown pottery containers, as well as apothecary items.
  • Refresh SFU - Refresh is a social enterprise within the student club Enactus SFU that collects bruised and aging produce for a product line that includes jams, sherbet and dried fruit snacks. The program's goal is to provide an alternate future for imperfect produce in order to prevent food wastage within their community.
  • Iocō - Co-founded by an SFU communications alumnus, Iocō is a creative practice considering materiality across individual geometries, textures and forms and contextualizing the possibilities they offer in various objects and architectural expressions. Their product line consists of mobiles and keychains.
  • M. Woods Studio - Founded by an undergraduate in teh SFU Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology, M. Woods specializes in bringing authentic earthly designs to people with matched souls through a number of hand-crafted jewelry pieces.

The competition’s SFU Innovates $500 cash prize acknowledging scalable potential went to Creatist Box Studios - a wearable tech design studio offering educational workshops and products for exploring and creating wearable technology, focusing on skill and knowledge development in simple circuitry, soft textiles, and design thinking.

Other showcase vendors included past #MadeBySFU winners Boues Bees and Frontrvnners.