CEO Neil Hershman Cites a Strong Soft-Serve, Frozen-Yogurt Market and Corporate Partnerships as Franchisee Benefits
For more than a decade, 16 Handles has made its mark at its locations in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. The self-serve, frozen-yogurt-and-more franchise is known for flavor innovations that please virtually everyone. Want a gluten-free, vegan, no-sugar-added, kosher or fat-free frozen treat? 16 Handles has you covered.
CEO Neil Hershman (above), formerly the soft-serve brand’s largest franchisee, became brand owner in August and expects 16 Handles to quickly exceed its current 30-plus units. He’s looking to have 16 Handles franchise locations across the United States, from Boston to California, although his recent emphasis is on the East Coast.
Although many frozen yogurt shops have struggled in recent years, Hershman is confident that the 16 Handles franchise has staying power. “16 Handles is a beloved brand in the New York region, and there is so much potential for it to dominate in countless other markets across the country. Our leadership team has experience owning and operating our store locations, which gives us unparalleled insight into our products, business model and customers.”
Hershman Is Hands-on
As might be expected, Hershman’s educational background suits the entrepreneur. He holds a degree in finance and astrophysics from The George Washington University. But Hershman isn’t above getting his hands sticky: He often spends his weekend nights working behind the counter at one of his shops and interacting with customers to find out what they like.
The rotating 16 soft-serve options include frozen yogurt, ice cream and sorbet along with 50-plus toppings. Soft-serve flavors include staples like Tahitian Vanilla and Chocolicious as well as specialties such as Arriba Coffee, Salted Caramel and Watermelon Tart. Also on the menu are smoothies, cakes and edible cookie dough.
To reel in revenue in various ways, 16 Handles sells pints to go, caters, hosts parties and makes deliveries. The 16 Handles franchise has a mobile app and online ordering system for customers’ convenience and to boost revenue for franchisees.
16 Handles Franchisee Benefits
Hershman says 16 Handles offers many advantages to franchisees. “The soft-serve and frozen-yogurt market has continued to be an attractive investment for operators due to the high-margin, low-labor business model. 16 Handles created a brand for a broader demographic, not just kids, and continues to bring in new customers with great marketing partners such as Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, Junior’s Cheesecake and Oatly.” Oatly’s oat-based non-dairy products have been used in some of 16 Handles’ soft-serve flavors such as Oatly Ice Latte.
16 Handles also sees partnership with collegiate athletes as an excellent marketing opportunity. In October it signed Cliff Omoruyi, star center on Rutgers University’s Scarlet Knights basketball team, to promote the brand on social media and do a special appearance at Rutgers, the site of 16 Handles’ first franchise on a university campus. Hershman has hinted at adding similar partnerships in the future.
Danny Duncan’s Social Media Campaign
As 16 Handles grows, Hershman’s right-hand man will be co-owner and Chief Creative Officer Danny Duncan, a comedic YouTuber with more than 1.5 billion views. Duncan will have a major role in brand vision and social media strategy.
Not surprisingly, he started as a fan of the brand. “On my first visit to the 16 Handles in Tribeca [Manhattan], I was so impressed with the product quality and experience that I wanted to help the brand grow nationally,” Duncan says. “It’s important for me to invest in a company that brings people happiness. I recognized 16 Handles’ success in New York City and knew if it could succeed there, it could succeed anywhere. I’m excited to open my own 16 Handles in my hometown of Englewood, Fla., and to help lead franchise expansion throughout the U.S.” (16 Handles already has a franchise in Boca Raton, Fla.)
16 Handles’ Customer Demographics
Hershman and Duncan feel confident that 16 Handles’ current fan base is locked in, but they’re keen on plans to expand not only geographically but also to reach new customer demographics. First up: cultivating a younger male audience, a priority for Duncan. Hershman told Fortune.com that he and Duncan are working on a new social tactic to woo Gen Z, one that will boost the 16 Handles franchise into “a really big brand.”
Solomon Choi, who in 2008 founded 16 Handles as the first self-service fro-yo shop in New York City, believes the brand will flourish under Hershman. “I want to see 16 Handles grow and evolve, and Neil has the right mindset to set lofty goals and put the right plan together,” Choi says.
At only 27 years of age, Hershman has a track record that fuels such optimism: Besides seven 16 Handles shops, he has added three Dippin’ Dots to his New York portfolio in the past couple of years. And more recently he opened Captain Cookie & the Milkman, a cookie and ice cream company, near New York University.
16 Handles Franchise Locations
16 Handles franchise locations may be standalone or in another building such as a mall. Sizes are wide-ranging, from 350 to 1,500 square feet, plus 200 additional square feet for storage. The total initial investment is $228,250 to $671,000, and the franchise fee for a first location is $30,000. The brand has the highest average unit volume among frozen-yogurt shops, averaging $734,451.
The 16 Handles franchise is big on civic and environmental kindness. Shop owners engage in civic-minded activities such as Trees for the Future, which has planted more than 150,000 trees; each store supports the planting of 16 trees per day. Franchisees also participate in local fundraisers for causes such as schools and nonprofits. The brand uses biodegradable cups and spoons, with shops composting and recycling when possible.
For more information about a 16 Handles franchise, visit 16handles.com/franchise or email firstname.lastname@example.org.