Anthony Maboko and Chantae Wardlaw are partners in business and in life. They have mastered the art of the pivot while juggling three small children. The Bootcamp Cohort 7 grads are on track to open a restaurant franchise on Highway 14 in Greer later this month.
Their passion for bubble tea and entrepreneurship started them on this journey. It’s been challenging at times, but teamwork, determination, and family have helped them overcome the obstacles they’ve faced.
THE BACK STORY
Anthony grew up in New York and transferred to the Upstate for business. He’s spent his professional life working in sales and management – primarily in retail. Chantae is a real estate agent who grew up in Simpsonville. They’ve held down “regular” jobs for financial stability, but Chantae says deep down they’ve always been entrepreneurs.
With a growing family and the growing cost of child care that comes with it, Chantae and Anthony decided to follow their passions and work for themselves.
FIRST TASTE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Anthony and Chantae first explored the idea of opening a bubble tea shop. They started creating their own recipes at home, but COVID cut them off from their key ingredient: tapioca pearls from Taiwan.
Stalled but not deterred during the global pandemic, they took baby steps toward their dream. While in a training program in California in the spring of 2021, Anthony and Chantae thought they had found a tapioca pearl supplier in America and a great franchise opportunity.
Their excitement waned, however, when that opportunity didn’t pan out. Instead of giving up, they kept learning and looking for the next right thing. They completed the 10-week Local Entrepreneur Acceleration Program (LEAP) from the South Carolina Community Loan Fund. The program provides support for women and minority founders, helps them develop a business plan, and teaches them what it takes to get financing for their business.
The next stop on their journey took them to GVL Starts, an 8-week program for early-stage entrepreneurs run by Furman’s Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. While working that program, Chantae and Anthony discovered Mochinut. While this franchise opportunity might quench their thirst for bubble tea, there was a lot more to consider. Bootcamp at The Platform at Greer helped them answer some lingering questions and solidify their path forward.
SERVING UP SWEETS
In addition to bubble tea, Mochinut serves hot dogs wrapped in Korean rice flour. The base looks kind of like a corndog (without the corn), but customers can choose to add sweet or savory toppings. The big “delight” – as the company calls it – is a combo of soft-serve ice cream and a mochi donut, a Japanese twist on an American-style donut.
In traditional Japanese culture, mochi (pronounced MOE-chee) is known as a “food of the gods.” It’s a sweet treat that often has mini scoops of ice cream in the center. A mochi donut has eight linked rice flour dough balls that are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The topping choices are seemingly endless.
NEED A BRAIN BREAK?
Check out Mochinut Greer’s Instagram page. Prepare to be mesmerized by the mochi marvels!
DISCOVERY AND DECISIONS
Anthony and Chantae did their homework before jumping into franchise ownership. They visited Mochinut locations in Las Vegas, California, Florida, and Georgia before deciding the company was a good fit for them.
Their first big challenge was finding a space to lease back home. Advisors told them to look for a listing that came equipped with a commercial kitchen and a drive-through. That proved to be easier said than done.
Chantae said she discovered their ideal location by chance when she was in Greer for a real estate closing. When she drove by and saw the “For Lease” sign on the building, Chantae was surprised. She had been scrolling through online listings for months, and this space never came up.
Chantae said when she walked into the space on Highway 14, she knew it was the one. She and Anthony were ready when they met with the listing agent. They had learned what they would need to land the lease while investigating more than 20 other properties: a business plan, info about the franchise, and their financials.
It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke when they found out their application was accepted on April 1st. Since then, Anthony and Chantae have been busy transforming a blank slate into what they hope will become a go-to place for families. There happens to be a Korean restaurant just two doors down, which could be a nice compliment to what Mochinut offers.
As their grand opening gets closer, Chantae and Anthony believe they have a solid foundation on which to build a successful business. They say they’ve gotten different benefits from each of the entrepreneur support programs they’ve worked through.
Chantae says they gained two months of information in two days at The Platform’s Bootcamp. She says being paired with a coach made the experience feel more personal, and the program focused just as much on life as it did business. They learned the importance of taking care of themselves and their family and to maintain a balance in their lives.
Anthony and Chantae say the dedication of Bootcamp coaches and expert volunteers is amazing. Bootcamp leaders pulled from their own pool of resources and connections to help the couple find solutions and support. Since finishing the program, Chantae and Anthony say they continue to benefit from check-ins from their coach.
Anthony and Chantae will have the peace of mind to focus on their business while they’re working in their restaurant. Anthony’s parents retired and moved down from New York to help take care of their three small children. Anthony says his mom loves the weather and cost of living here in the Upstate.
As they prepare for a soft opening with family and friends later this month, they are thankful to have found the right location. “I’m so proud to be in Greer,” Chantae said. “The entire community comes together to help business owners. It’s like a family.”