While the business offering may be frozen treats, the focus for sweetFrog premium frozen yogurt is community involvement.
Rather than just opening their doors and getting customers to come in and make their own tasty, frozen treat, sweetFrog wants its franchisees to embrace an active role in the cities and towns where they operate, Director of Franchise Marketing and Development Shemar Pucel explained during a recent interview from sweetFrog headquarters in Richmond, VA.
“We have a large portfolio of different events franchisees can host in their stores to support local non-profit organizations like the Girl Scouts of America,” Pucel said. “We actually have a patch program that we rolled out with them this past year.”
The patch Pucel identified is a sweetFrog Community Patch. Girl Scout leaders can bring their troops into sweetFrog locations around the country to allow the girls a behind the scenes tour of the store, where they make their own frozen treat and then can work with their troop to achieve their financial literacy badge. sweetFrog even has different levels of proposed exercises to accommodate this achievement.
The company also has a program for local schools where sweetFrog franchises host educational field trips for students from kindergarten through Grade 6. Franchises also host benefit nights and a Deck the Halls choir program every December where they invite local school and church choirs to come in and sing Christmas carols to sweetFrog guests. Each year they feature one particular carol and create the company’s viral Christmas card featuring choirs from across the country singing the tune.
In the beginning
Founded in 2009 by former CEO and founder, Derek Shaw, sweetFrog now has about 320 locations spread across 28 states and four different countries.
Shaw and his wife Ana, along with their two children originally from California where there are a lot of frozen yogurt shops, moved out east and decided Richmond could use its own frozen yogurt location.
The entrepreneur opened his first location next to a movie theater and giving customers the ability to create their own custom dessert proved to be a hit, which prompted Shaw to open several more locations over the ensuing years.
Much of the recent growth and prosperity of the brand comes as a result of sweetFrog’s new CEO, Pat Galleher. In 2015, Pat along with his investment group, Boxwood Partners, LLC became the majority owners of the sweetFrog franchise. Under his leadership, the sweetFrog corporate offices have expanded to welcome some of the brightest minds in the industry—focusing on assisting and facilitating the future growth of the franchise system and the sweetFrog brand.
The right fit
While the ability to run a successful business is important, it’s the community engagement that is really crucial for potential franchisees.
“We want them to be enthusiastic, business minded individuals with strong management skills and a willingness to learn,” Pucel said. “More so, they have to want to connect with their community. Owning and operating a sweetFrog isn’t just putting up a sweetFrog sign, opening your doors and allowing customers to come in and make their own frozen treat. It’s really about how they go out there and network with their community and ultimately their ability to manage multiple locations.
sweetFrog’s largest owner has eight locations, spanning four states she added.
Along with being community minded, potential franchisees must be financially sound, as opening a sweetFrog is not a small investment, Pucel noted.
The company has attracted a lot of family teams, whether they be husband and wife, father and son or siblings. It also seems to be popular among people who already own a franchise with another brand and who want to diversify their franchise portfolio.
Another group that Pucel has a particular interest in bringing on board is veterans. She has developed a veteran awareness program for sweetFrog that has already paid some nice dividends.
“We’ve been bringing a lot of veterans on board and have actually awarded three veteran franchises this year,” she said. “In fact, we are gearing up for a big push in November with activities planned in honor of Veteran’s day, both in our stores and through our franchise development outreach. Our team offers 50% off the initial franchise fee of $30,000 as part of our VetFran discount each May and November.”
sweetFrog’s full service support team includes 25 people in the corporate office, in addition to five district managers throughout the country who assist new franchisees through every step of the franchising process.
The company has a team of six people dedicated to assisting franchisees with their marketing campaigns as well as an operational team who oversees franchisees’ initial week-long training in Richmond.
sweetFrog representatives go through the final walkthrough of franchisees’ locations with them and attend their grand opening. They also conduct periodic visits throughout the year, host monthly support and marketing calls with franchisees and have an annual national conference.
In addition to that, sweetFrog has partnerships with other businesses and vendors to help franchisees with choosing and building a location, as well as offering them technological support.
Heading west and going mobile
While sweetFrog is well represented in the east, there are still many opportunities in places like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts. The company has its sights set on expansion in Minnesota,Wisconsin, Illinois, California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas.
“We are making a very strong push to get more and more people in the midwest, the west coast as well as the southwest to open up sweetFrog locations,” Pucel said.
One of the newest opportunities sweetFrog has developed and launched recently is mobile franchises. Existing franchisees can now get either a sweetFrog truck or trailer to act as a moving billboard while allowing them access to more places like on-site school and corporate events and state fairs.
Potential franchisees can also opt to just get a mobile sweetFrog operation, as well. The dessert shop has also expanded its location offerings into more non-traditional places like airports, food courts and college campuses.
For entrepreneurs who are looking to open a business that goes beyond just the business, sweetFrog offers a sweet opportunity.