The popular nine-to-five grind isn’t for everyone. In fact, a Monday to Friday office job can quickly become all too familiar for some people, especially those looking to pursue careers in other fields. After 20 plus years as an Insurance Broker in Illinois, this is how Dan Houska was beginning to feel.
“I liked the thought of controlling my own destiny,” says Dan, adding that a change in his everyday lifestyle was an appealing factor. These factors gave Dan the push he needed to get active about making his thoughts a reality and motivated him to make a career change.
In spring 2011, Dan made the switch to Red Mango. Having spent two years prior looking at various franchise opportunities, Dan was attracted to Red Mango because of the healthy nature of the product, its loyal following, and relatively simple operation plan.
First introduced to Red Mango in 2010 while visiting his oldest daughter at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN, Dan was turned onto the company after trying its product at a location nearby the campus. With Dan’s very specific criteria to meet, Red Mango hit the nail on the head in an area of the most importance: it was a clean and healthy concept.
In May 2011 Dan went to Dallas where he met with the senior management. After signing the franchisee agreement Red Mango set him up with a Commercial Real Estate Broker who had several locations already scouted. After deciding on his location, Dan signed the lease that August. Securing all the necessary permits, the build out began in December.
In February 2012, Dan opened his first franchise in Wheaton, Illinois with his business partner, and wife of 25 years, Michelle. The franchise was a great fit for the husband and wife team from the beginning. “We had 100 sunny days immediately after opening, and business took off. It has [continued to] run pretty smoothly.”
Dan and Michelle received great training from Red Mango management before beginning their franchise. Spending five days undergoing operational training at an existing Red Mango location, followed by an additional three days in Dallas for marketing and accounting training, it’s no wonder they became chain leaders in record time.
“The training is strong and thorough,” says Dan. “It’s amazing how much you learn in one week going into another store to train.”
The rookie franchisees set a great example, and their store became a highly respected “follow the system” store for fellow franchisees to receive the training they had recently undertook.
Last year, Dan and Michelle had 19 new franchise owners come through their store for hands-on training. At the time of speaking with us [Franchising USA], Dan stated they had three franchisees, five people total, currently training at their store. Each trainee will receive 40 hours of training in the course of the week, which speaks to how fast the frozen yogurt market has grown, and also how the Houskas’ store has become a respected franchise location for others to witness the daily operation first-hand.
With such accomplishments achieved in such a short period of time, and no previous experience in yogurt or franchising, Dan remains humble. Both Houskas are still present leaders in their store, with Dan overseeing the daily operations alongside his team, and Michelle being the “grassroots marketing star and back of the house clean freak,” says Dan.
When asked how his life has changed since entering the world of franchising, he admits the job is often more demanding than his last, but he stresses how much he enjoys spending time in the workplace.
“As an owner you want to embrace the panic call from your manager on the Sunday afternoon stating that you need fresh fruit. Hopefully when you get off the couch you are excited about your trip to the store, it means business has been good!” he explains. “My family is much more involved in this business than anything I’ve done in the past.”
Although there are similarities between his former career and present endeavor such as self-motivation, follow up procedures, and great customer service tactics, he also recognizes the vast differences between owning a franchise and the traditional nine-to-five job, admitting his current position requires attention seven days a week.
“As an owner of Red Mango you are responsible for marketing, accounting, employee hiring and training,” says Dan. Enjoying the diversity of his job, he notes the satisfaction he gets from the large number of customers he sees who are passionate about the health benefits and great taste of the frozen yogurt.
“It’s rewarding to be a part of something that people enjoy,” says Dan, admitting his favorite flavor of the brands yogurt is pomegranate with strawberries and Ghirardelli chocolate chips.
Red Mango is unique in that its products appeal to a wide and diverse audience. The fitness conscious crowd enjoys the yogurt because it promotes a healthy lifestyle, while sweet lovers are drawn to the delicious flavors. It’s this appeal that has allowed Dan to witness the company win both ”Best Smoothie/Frozen Yogurt” and “Top Healthy Options within the Quick Refreshments Chains” awarded by Zagat.
The perks of selling a product that speaks to a large target market are only a bonus. The real positive of Red Mango for Dan is a business model that is committed to helping franchisees like himself thrive.
With around 250 locations up and running, Dan sees the advantages in being a part of a growing company. “Senior management is very hands on. You can literally call anyone in the company and you will receive a quick follow up.”
Providing industry-leading site selection, highly effective marketing initiatives, and a proven training program, there is also room for individual flexibility, with many of the flavors, toppings and other products being decided upon by each franchisee.
“The best part about owning your own business is so much of what happens is in your control. I find it refreshing to go from inventory, to management, to employee issues, to marketing. It always seems fresh and never boring,” explains Dan.
Red Mango has also supported Dan and Michelle in their tremendous community outreach efforts. Promoting their products to local schools and hosting a “good neighbor” program (fundraiser), the Houskas have given away “good student awards” and free yogurt certificates for various fundraisers.
On April 20, 2012, the Houskas’ held their grand opening, one that Dan Kim, founder and chief concept officer of Red Mango, Inc., attended. During the event, Dan and Michelle treated guests and customers to a free small yogurt with toppings, and the first 100 people to arrive received a free Red Mango t-shirt. Attendees who registered for the Club Mango loyalty program that day, and those who were already members, entered into a drawing for a chance to win an iPad.
Dan is pleased at the response to his franchise among residents and businesses, adding, “We’re doing a lot of events with clubs and teams in Wheaton and surrounding communities. It’s been fun.”
Though happy with where the road has taken him, Dan admits things have not always come easily, and challenges have surfaced. One of the biggest challenges he reveals is how easy it is to overspend. He’s also quick to admit that it has taken a lot of hard work and many hours to get things where they are.
Receiving calls from potential new franchise owners on a regular basis, Dan tells him what he believes to be true: “If you select the right location and want to work hard, this is a great company and product to be associated with.” He also suggests talking to other franchisees to make sure it’s the right thing for you.
With the Houskas’ Red Mango operating smoothly, Dan explains what he has in store for the future. For the short term he wants to have purchased a second store and have it up and operating by the end of the year. Ten years down the road from now however, he hopes to still be a part of the company and own multiple locations.
There’s been little looking back for Dan since leaving the insurance industry and embarking on his new life adventure. The Houskas’ hard work has already paid off with recognition within the franchise, and has also sparked a love for frozen yogurt in their community.
“The great thing is my consistent and loyal customer base. The customers are nice and respectful,” Dan says. “We are extremely excited to have so many local fans of our frozen yogurt in the short time the store has been open.”
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