Hub Spotlight: Retea

Posted on Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

Written by The John F. Wood Centre For Business and Student Enterprise

Retea was founded by Toby Zhou during her second year of university, when she made it her goal to reduce her single-use plastics consumption. After not finding many sustainable alternatives to drinking bubble tea, Toby realized that there was a gap in the market. This is when she made a DIY version of a reusable bubble tea cup - aka the first Retea cup! Retea is a student-run business with a mission to provide sustainable ways of making and drinking bubble tea.  

 We sat down with Toby to get the inside scoop on how she started Retea and what she hopes to get out of the Hub Incubator Program!

How did you come up with Retea?

It has always been a goal of mine to be more environmentally conscious, especially by reducing my single-use plastic waste! It wasn't until the end of my second year of university where I understood just how much waste came from my favourite drink, bubble tea. After not finding many sustainable alternatives to drinking bubble tea online and in-stores, I realised that there was a gap in the market. This pushed me to figure out a solution which was to make a DIY (do it yourself) version of a reusable bubble tea cup, aka the first Retea cup! This inspired me to start my business because I knew I could make a difference and provide a sustainable solution to this problem!

What motivated you to take the next step and apply to the Hub?

As a Human Nutrition major, I was not familiar with business in general, nor did I have much guidance on entrepreneurship. When I heard of the Hub from another Hub member, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to gain mentorship nd meet other like-minded people who can offer me advice, support, and motivation! 

What do you hope to get out of the Hub?

I have already gained and learned a lot from the Hub after only 2 months! I hope to continue learning how to successfully grow my business through their weekly entrepreneurial workshops and connections with other experienced entrepreneurs. 

Do you have any advice for someone with a business idea in mind, but are not sure what to do next?

Don't be afraid to take a risk, big or small! If you have a great business idea, go for it. You don't always need the "big or perfect idea" to start a company. Look for the one small thing you could launch a company around that you/family/friends see as a problem and go from there! Keep talking about your ideas to your friends, family, or reach out to other entrepreneurs for their input. Lastly, filling out a business plan is also very helpful - it's like a blueprint for your business! The first step is always the hardest, but it will be worth it. Starting my own business was one of the best decisions I've ever made.  

To learn more about Retea check out their website.  


Housed within the John F. Wood Centre for Business & Student Enterprise (Wood Centre), the Hub is a business incubator designed to support early-stage business ideas with high-potential, but unproven business models. The goal of the Hub is to provide University of Guelph students (undergraduate and graduate) and alumni the opportunity to build a successful business enterprise in a supportive learning environment.

The Hub has a tiered program that ensures a good mix of start-up companies at varying stages of growth. “Hub Start” is for ventures still getting their idea off the ground. These ventures typically have a great team and a great idea, but still have not demonstrated product-market fit with traction. “Hub Build” is for ventures with traction looking to refine their business model and/or scale.

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