Texas entrepreneur creates connection for her community

When we last spoke with Jaja Chen in 2020, her business was adapting to survive the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. She and her husband and co-owner Devin started Waco Cha as a pop-up in the Waco Downtown Farmers Market in 2018 and later obtained a food truck. In March 2020, they opened their first storefront in Waco. However, opening in the middle of the pandemic was difficult, especially as they couldn’t open for dine-in until late summer. However, due to Waco Cha’s roots, they had the experience and model needed to facilitate to-go orders and outdoor catering through their food truck.

It was a stressful time, but Waco residents stepped up to help their small businesses.. Jaja reflects, “We and other local restaurants experienced a lot of support from our community to make sure we would get through the pandemic. That camaraderie, despite the challenges of the pandemic, is what helped us continue.”

In 2021, Jaja and Devin rebranded their business as Cha Community to better reflect its mission: to bridge cultures and to create community through boba tea and fast-casual Taiwanese and Chinese food. Cha Community specializes in loose leaf tea and uses real milk in their boba drinks instead of powdered ingredients, and they strive to source organic teas and/or direct trade teas whenever possible. They were able to open a second storefront in Temple in 2022, and are planning to open another storefront in the Waco area in collaboration with another local small business.

As a second generation Taiwanese-American, Jaja lived in China and Taiwan during middle school and high school. Boba shops were on every street corner, so when Jaja moved to Waco it was a “huge culture shock.” There wasn’t access to as much Asian food and she would need to travel to Houston or Dallas to source groceries and more Asian ingredients. Jaja and Devin both wanted to see more representation of Asian culture and cuisine locally. Through Cha Community, they successfully brought authentic Taiwanese and Chinese-style food to Waco but felt like they wanted to do more. Jaja explains, “Through our experience as small business owners, it can be quite lonely and difficult to connect with others, especially for Asian American cultures.”

Jaja and Devin began to organically connect with other Asian small business owners and community leaders. They determined there was no other nonprofit serving the needs of Asian Americans in the Waco area and they wanted to increase community and connection. This led them to become founding members of the Asian Leaders Network (ALN), a nonprofit that builds community amongst Asian and Asian Americans in the Greater Waco area, uplifts Asian leaders in their community, and connects Asian leaders to resources to elevate their influence.

Through both ALN and Cha Community, Jaja is helping to connect her community. She encourages other founders to pursue ways to bring their communities together because “even though it can be risky and vulnerable, there’s so much joy in taking those risks when you can identify needs in your community.” This February, ALN hosted their first Lunar New Year Market and festival alongside the Waco Downtown Farmers Market. The event was a success: thousands attended and more than  20 vendors participated. ALN now has a board, event planning team and volunteers that come together to plan future cultural events to bring Waco together.

Jaja says, “Being a business owner is about creating change and creating innovation. You work alongside the community. Business owners are changemakers. It all started with a dream that came into fruition.”


Small Business Profile