If one Virginia based franchise has its way, American military bases will be getting a lot sweeter and a lot more amphibious.
SweetFrog, a frozen yoghurt and dessert franchise headquartered in Richmond, VA, is currently in talks to potentially open locations on some military bases.
“Lately, we’ve definitely seen a surge in interest from military veterans and transitioning individuals who are looking to develop sweetFrog locations on military bases across the country,” sweetFrog Director of Franchise Marketing and Development Shemar Pucel said during a recent interview.
Pucel is hopeful the franchise will see locations popping up on bases within the next six to nine months.
The possibility of getting more veterans on board is exciting for Pucel, who comes from a military family herself. Their training and experience in the military means veterans know how to take processes and procedures and deploy them to the highest level, the sweetFrog franchising director said.
She estimates between 20 and 25 percent of sweetFrog franchisees are former military members. The company recently sent out a survey to franchisees to ascertain exactly how many are veterans, Pucel noted, adding that she recently signed up two more veterans within the last three months.
The usual VetFran incentive for sweetFrog is 25 percent off the franchising fee, but that goes up to 50 percent off in both May in honor of Military Appreciation Month and November in honor of Veterans Day. This discount can also be applied to two of their newer models, including their mobile truck and trailer options.
Started in 2009 by founder Derek Cha, sweetFrog began franchising in 2012. The company currently has 340 locations, of which 70 are corporate stores and rest are franchises.
Aside from veterans, sweetFrog has franchisees from all walks of life, including people who have exited corporate America, but who don’t want to retire yet, and franchisees of other concepts who are looking to diversify their portfolios.
Pucel pointed out that because sweetFrog is a family brand, it tends to attract husband and wife teams and parent and children teams of entrepreneurs.
That family oriented outlook is apparent in the sweetFrog brand. It offers birthday packages for families with their mascots Scoop and Cookie. One theme is “Princess and a sweetFrog,” where little girls get dressed up as their favorite princess. They also have super hero nights.
“Boys and girls and even adults can come in dressed as their favorite super hero and have a fun place to hang out,” Pucel explained.
Modelled after the popular adult event of wine and painting nights, sweetFrog also offers painting nights and days for children, where kids get a free cup of yogurt and learn how to do some painting.
The brand also makes a point of working with schools, non-profit organizations and clubs like Girl Scouts of America to teach children about business and finance.
This is all in keeping with Cha’s original intention with the brand.
“He really founded the business to be a good neighbor, to give kids and their families a safe haven where they could come in and enjoy a great dessert and be supported as a member of the community,” Pucel said.
Purchased by Boxwood Capital Partners in 2015, sweetFrog still strives to exemplify family and community involvement in their brand.
Becoming a sweetFrog
The brand has 35 individuals based in their corporate headquarters that are there to assist franchisees with all aspects of the business, including buildout, lease negotiations and marketing. The brand also does a lot of national advertising for franchisees.
Six district managers and a director of operations are out in the field all the time visiting franchisees and providing on-site training as needed.
Franchisees also come to Richmond for training about three or four days before they open their store for in-house training. sweetFrog representatives also do a final walkthrough with franchisees and help them throughout the grand opening of their stores.
Plus, the brand holds an annual convention and gives franchisees access to an online educational library that is always available to them.
“We kind of hold their hand from start to finish,” Pucel noted.
Coast to Coast
Currently, sweetFrog is in 28 states and five different countries. In the USA, the brand is everywhere from Maui, where it just recently opened, to New York. It has a particularly high density on the east coast.
With 20+ locations in Texas, five in California and two in Nevada, the brand is pushing a western expansion. Arizona is a top priority for the company, as well as continuing their buildup in Texas and establishing themselves more in Southern Florida.
A franchisee in the Dominican Republic just recently opened their seventh location in February.
Pucel pointed to sweetFrog’s branding as being a big difference maker for the company, particularly their cute mascots, Scoop and Cookie.
“Kids absolutely gravitate toward them,” she said.
Along with the mascots, the brand’s14 proprietary flavors that only sweetFrog franchisees can access and their focus on children’s events and connecting to the communities they’re in all help sweetFrog maintain a strong brand presence.
With bringing more veterans on board and keeping their focus on family and community, sweetFrog is poised to hop onto those military bases in the near future with some major entrepreneurial opportunities for the right people.