Kaila and Daniel Ball, newly married during the pandemic, had dreams of something fresh, away from metro Detroit.
“We had plans to move to Oregon,” Daniel said. “The Pacific Northwest is beautiful and that was a major part in that choice. We also wanted to just start new somewhere and figured the best way to do that was to move across the country. I remember the first time I experienced the Oregon wilderness, I thought, ‘This reminds me of the UP.’”
Before they left the Great Lakes State, they decided to take “one last trip” to that beautiful Upper Peninsula.
They’re still there. And Marquette is losing its mind over bubble tea. Blossom Bird Bubble Tea opened in June 2021.
“This shop opening up is one of the best things to happen to the Marquette area,” Sam Benedict wrote on Facebook. “My girlfriend and I make a point to go here once a week. We both love it. The staff is amazingly kind and friendly. The drinks are always great. The atmosphere is always cheerful and inviting.”
“Everything about this business is an extension of us,” Daniel Ball said. “We’re passionate and we’re sharing that.”
The pair have long had a tradition of drinking bubble tea in new places they visit. When they realized the U.P. was missing out, they renovated a former fitness center a block off the main downtown street. Daniel designed the sign on the corner of the historic building; their friend Adrianne Bresijn designed the logo, which adorns windows and merchandise alike.
Bubble tea, a drink that originated in Taiwan, is the star, but the supporting cast includes milk teas, boba lemonade, flavored iced teas, and a selection of clever and yummy baked goods. Kaila is the baker and wishes she could do more of it; she also makes custom cakes, but is limiting orders to one a week.
One of the specialties of the house is bubble waffles, made in a special waffle iron and available in three flavors – Cinnamon Sugar, Cheesy, and Original, served with local maple syrup.
“This wouldn’t be possible without Northern Initiatives.” – Daniel Ball, owner, Blossom Bird Bubble Tea
Turning the fitness center is an airy and inviting café was hard work – and expensive. Daniel “kept working and I Googled,” Kaila laughed, and they admitted they weren’t aware of all the resources they could have tapped into. A local bank, which wouldn’t loan to a startup business, recommended Northern Initiatives. “This wouldn’t be possible without Northern Initiatives,” Ball said. “It paid for the plumbing.”
“The Northern Initiatives loan was the last chunk of money we needed to complete the whole project,” he said. “We were at a point where we had everything taken care of except for redoing the plumbing in the building so we could actually hook up all of our sinks and ice machine. The money we had already secured was spent on all the appliances and other startup costs and we were left faced with a larger expense for the plumbing than we initially expected.” Northern Initiatives got the water flowing and freezing so Blossom Bird Bubble Tea could open and start delighting the U.P.
The couple also has been successful with hiring – they started with four employees and hired two more last winter – and haven’t had to advertise the business. “We’re busy enough with word of mouth,” Kaila smiled.
Daniel, who manages the business side of Blossom Bird while Kaila manages the service side, said he’s been grateful for the technical assistance he’s received through Northern Initiatives, including lifesaving QuickBooks training, a program he had zero experience with. “They gave us the skills and knowledge that helps us keep up on our day-to-day accounting, which is important because it’s something we do ourselves,” Daniel said. “Being able to know how to keep our books up-to-date helps us stay prepared and not fall behind.” The training was online and “incredibly helpful,” he said. “She was able to teach me everything that I wanted to know – and more!”