MILWAUKEE — A local college student is opening his own business on campus well before graduation. He's part of a growing trend of millennials in Milwaukee who are pursuing ideas, and becoming their own bosses, rather than going the traditional route.
"I've always commuted to campus, and when I noticed the empty storefront last year, it sparked my interest," said Manpreet Singh, 24.
Singh is a senior at Marquette University. He's putting everything he has into transforming what used to be the Subway restaurant on Wells, near 14th Street, into his new business.
"Without risk, you can't get a reward," Singh said. "I just have really high hopes in myself, my idea, and especially for the community."
His idea "SereniTea" will feature Bubble or Boba Tea - a delicacy from Asia that has become increasingly popular in the U.S. You can't find much of it in Milwaukee yet. The store will also offer other drinks and snacks as well.
"The two places on campus that offer specialty tea and coffee drinks get jam-packed," Singh said. "I thought about what students want. They need new scenery, somewhere cool to study and enjoy a beverage. A change of pace. I want to give them that. Not to mention, a new quality product to try that is huge in other places, but hasn't really been given a chance here in Milwaukee."
A big focus is on making the space stand-out.
"Young people love posting on Snapchat and Instagram," Singh said. "Aesthetics are important. When I was first thinking about this, I wanted a place people would want to show on their Snapchat. It's based on that mindset. There are bubble tea places on the west coast that have 50,000 Instagram followers and lots of cool photos."
For Singh, this has been a crash course in everything business - licensing, copyright, accounting and remodeling, just to name a few.
"It's nerve-wracking because everything requires money," he said. "Contractors need the supplies, and everything needs to get done. It's all up to me. It's a lot."
Singh's parents are his inspiration. His family is Punjabi. They are members of Oak Creek's Sikh Temple. They moved here nearly 20 years ago, started with nothing, and became successful business owners.
"They have been working like crazy their whole lives to get me to college," Singh said. "I owe so much to them. I just want to make them proud and do something great."
And he's confident the time is now.
"People are trying new things," he said. "It's all about innovation. Entrepreneurship is the best thing you can do right now. People want to work for themselves, not under someone, and to do that you have to know what you're capable of."
Singh is hoping to graduate in the spring, but he'll be a full-fledged business owner by fall. SereniTea is set to open at the beginning of September.