Welcome back to our Side-Hustle Series! This week we’re featuring Leighton Blackwood and his bubble tea business, 2nd Heaven! You may know Leighton from past social media features – he’s been a key member of our Sales Ops team since joining Bandalier in February of 2018.
Leighton has always had an interest in entrepreneurship but gives credit to Bandalier for inspiring him. As he describes it,
“A great part of the inspiration to build my own business has come from watching Bandalier grow. When I first joined the company, it wasn’t even a year old and we were a handful of people in a small office room. It’s been an amazing journey. Now, there’s an active entrepreneur community that exists within Bandalier. The opportunity to learn and grow with other people on similar paths as me is great, and I am excited to network with other entrepreneurs!”
Between his work at Bandalier and his experiences as a student at Binghamton University’s School of Management, he has a diverse knowledge base to work with. As a frequent diner at BU’s Marketplace, Leighton noticed a conspicuous lack of specialty drinks:
“Coming from NYC, bubble tea has been one of my favorite drinks. In Binghamton offerings of the drink are limited both in quality and location, especially for students without convenient transportation. I identified bubble tea as a great drink that many students like me with a taste for it would benefit from having access to it on campus.”
Once he recognized the need, Leighton reached out to the university to propose a new business. Inspired by the success of Chick’n’Bap, he suggested the development of another student-founded and student-run business. After a year of work with his friend Darren Shi, things didn’t quite pan out for an on-campus business. Business plan in hand, Leighton started exploring other avenues to bring bubble tea to the Binghamton area.
“We placed a lot of work into our concept, especially in creating our recipes from scratch. Our current recipes are a result of about 7 months and hundreds of cups of data-driven trials where we tested everything from the perfect temperature to brew tea to the perfect recipe for cooking boba. Each trial went through a rigorous process of taste testing via focus groups and surveys. With all the work that we put in and my drive to explore entrepreneurship, we decided to keep pushing towards a new launch, this time at the local farmers market on a small scale to test the market.”
After meeting with the managers of the Farmer’s Market in August, Leighton went to work obtaining the licenses and funding he needed to start serving tea. He sold his first cup of Bubble Tea in October, and though he admits that there “have been growing pains… it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience!”
You can catch Leighton every Saturday at the Broome County Regional Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 9-1. If you don’t want to make the trek out to Front Street, you can also get 2 Heaven’s bubble tea delivered via Grubhub or UberEats! You can also connect with 2nd Heaven on Facebook and Yelp.