Meet Olivia: The 11-year-old owner of Texas’s first self-serve bubble tea shop

Story bY Lawson Martin. Photos by Lawson Martin and provided by rocketbelly.

Owning a business requires confidence, determination, leadership, and tenacity. It can often be a lot of work for any adult, but there’s a girl in Arlington who is proving she has what it takes to own a restaurant at just 11 years old.
Olivia Huynh smiles behind the counter at Rocketbelly, Texas's first self-serve bubble tea shop. Photo by Lawson Martin.

Buzz is going around the Dallas-Fort Worth area about Olivia Huynh, a child who owns and operates Rocketbelly, a bubble tea shop in Arlington.

Olivia’s journey to open Rocketbelly has been adventurous and full of ups and downs. Olivia loved to watch crafting and cooking shows with her mom growing up. At 4.5 years old, Olivia begged her parents to let her make YouTube videos showing other people how to make easy recipes and crafts. She created nearly 130 videos for the YouTube channel called “DIYwithOllie” which gained 7.62K followers within a few years.

Creating videos on YouTube ignited a passion within Olivia. She then asked her parents if she could become a model and an actress. They went to an open call for her to audition and she was signed on the spot. Olivia went on to be in several commercials for brands, including Pizza Hut, Havertys, Chili’s, and Michaels.

Olivia’s call to entrepreneurship came about in 2019 during one of her homeschool lessons, where she learned about business and investments. Olivia was 7 at the time, and she told her parents that she had a business idea. The child wanted to create baking mixes because she said the dessert flavors were so boring everywhere she went, and she wanted everyone to taste the flavors she made at home with her parents.

Olivia with her baking mixes. Photo provided by Rocketbelly.

She decided she wanted to start selling baking mixes that she could sell all over the world. It was good timing for this type of business, too, because the COVID-19 pandemic led many people to bake more since they were spending more time at home with their families. The business quickly boomed, and Olivia reached almost 3,000 customers a month. During this time, Olivia auditioned for Shark Tank and made it to the finals of the audition process.

In 2021, people went from working from home to heading back to the office, and Olivia started losing customers. Olivia shifted her business model by opening a small cafe to sell her baked goods and start her self-serve boba tea idea. Olivia’s family says this was a hit, and people came from all over to meet the child and try her treats. However, three months into this journey, Olivia’s landlord decided to sell the building, and Olivia ended up losing everything.

A year later, Olivia and her family found an empty space where they opened Rocketbelly, which is Texas’s first and only self-serve bubble tea bar.

Rocketbelly self-serve bubble tea machines. Photo by Lawson Martin.

Olivia says she got the idea to open a self-serve bubble tea bar by watching her parents. She says they’d get the same flavor every time they got bubble tea, and she asked them why they never tried a new flavor. They responded that sometimes when they ordered a new flavor, they wouldn’t like it, and Olivia didn’t want people to order a tea flavor they would end up not liking.

“I chose bubble tea because I like bubble tea, and I don’t like customers leaving upset, angry, and sad that they didn’t get what they wanted, so I did the sampling and creativeness (of the business),” says Olivia.

At Rocketbelly, customers can customize their bubble tea to their liking. There’s a topping bar and several self-serve machines full of bubble tea. Customers are allowed to try as many toppings and teas as they like before making their decision. There are tapioca pearls, otherwise known as boba balls, located in a warmer next to the topping bar. The tapioca pearls are infused with wildflower honey and brown sugar.

Rocketbelly also has a variety of food options to choose from, including Rocket Chicken, which is a cross between traditional chicken tenders and Japanese style chicken katsu, Mars fries, which are fries covered with Mars curry sauce and cheese, and beef sticks.

Rocketbelly food– Rocket Chicken, Mars Fries, and Beef Sticks. Photo by Lawson Martin.

When customers enter Rocketbelly, they’ll instantly notice its fun, space-themed decor featuring dozens of cat decorations.

“I like astronomy, cats, and space, so I wanted to be, like, inside a spaceship. And as you can see, there’s a thousand cats,” Olivia says, gesturing around the shop. “You can do anything here – you can study, you can work, you can hang out and everything and just have conversations with people.”

Rocketbelly decor is all space and cat themed. Olivia chose all of Rocketbelly's decore herself. Photo by Lawson Martin.

Even though Olivia’s only 11 years old, she shares a lot of responsibility as a restaurant owner. She can often be seen greeting customers when they walk in and checking them out at the register when they’re ready. Olivia also works to restock cups, lids, and straws, and clean down any tables while her parents are cooking.

According to Olivia, nailing down her favorite part about Rocketbelly is difficult.

“I would say everything,” she said with a laugh adding, “I like greeting people. I like hanging out with people, talking, and also, I really like the concept because it’s really fun to do.”

Olivia wants to see Rocketbelly be successful so she can open in several other locations. Olivia’s mom says Olivia would love to open a restaurant in Florida. In addition to opening more restaurants, Olivia says 10 years from now, she sees herself as an artist, specifically drawing, and she also wants to be an actress.

Olivia’s parents encourage her in every way possible to ensure Rocketbelly’s success. Olivia’s mom says when she started having children, she vowed to support her children’s dreams no matter how big or small they were and through every success and failure.

“Even though we may fail, we still gave it a try,” Olivia says, which is a life lesson her parents have instilled in her.

Aside from making money, Olivia’s main goal is to meet people from all over the world and to make people’s days brighter.

“I just really like talking to people and making peoples’ days,” Olivia says. “I try to make anyone who walks in, walk out happy as well.”

Rocketbelly is located at 100 West Pioneer Parkway, Suite 156, Arlington TX 76010. The restaurant is open on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight.

If you would like to learn more about Olivia and Rocketbelly, click here to visit the website.