Starting operation in 2008, the original Yeh! Yogurt was a small 600 sq ft shop located on St Laurent Blvd in Montreal. Despite its size, the launching pad became the place where the brand, signature pink color, cool urban environment and yogurt taste became widely known.
Situated near busy restaurants and clubs, and not far from McGill University, Yeh! became a hot spot for many students and young people to indulge in fresh frozen yogurt and relax with friends. Through word of mouth the yogurt café drew the attention of people from all over the city as “the first self-serve frozen yogurt shop in Montreal,” says co-CEO Jon Gurman.
CEOs Jon and Marvin, also known as “the Gurman twins”, have been in the branding, licensing and marketing industry for over 35 years, specifically the apparel business. With a trademark slogan of “You Go, You Get,” the dynamic duo holds retail partnerships with many corporate giants including Walmart, JCPenny and Sears.
Tracing its roots to South Korea, the frozen yogurt trend first caught the eyes of the Gurmans in Los Angeles, California. Upon trying the yogurt, the twins fell in love with the concept. And thus, a new era of Yeh! Yogurt began.
Named after a partner of the CEOs who they refer to as “The Great Yeh,” the Gurmans explain how the name stuck. “It worked well with ‘Yay,’ ‘Yeah,’ ‘Yeh! Yogurt.’ It’s fantastic. I don’t think we could have chosen a better name,” says Jon.
“It’s happy, it’s cool, it’s hip; it seems to work well with the branding,” adds in Managing Director Craig Stein.
Made on site daily, the Gurmans claim their product to be “the healthiest yogurt in the world!” While many competing companies receive frozen supplies from large factory kitchens to thaw and serve, our yogurt is made on site with fresh milk and yogurt, a powder mix and their flavoring, guaranteeing it’s always fresh, explains Marvin. Other yogurt shops are like ice cream shops. We’re more of a cool, fun café experience.
The ever-changing selection of flavored non-fat frozen yogurt is accompanied by a selection of over 40 toppings to choose from, including both fresh fruits and sweets. “It’s fresh, it’s healthy and it’s creative. You get to make your own yogurt, add your own toppings,” says Stein.
The success of the frozen yogurt shop was not just the taste, but also the fact that the serve yourself concept was a completely new idea. “It took people like, ‘wow’,” says Jon.
“People don’t like to fill up self serve gas, but people love to self serve yogurt.”
In 2009 Yeh! Yogurt began franchising; the first shop was in Burlington, Massachusetts. To date there are 15 stores open and running, a number which will double by the end of 2013.
“Eight of the 30 will be corporate run, and the rest franchises,” explains Jon. With locations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, California and New York, the brothers are on the look out for new locations to build and expand.
An ideal Yeh! franchisee needs to be entrepreneurial, have a passion for the business, experience in the restaurant industry and have enough start-up capital for the franchise fee ($30,000) and the store costs, which include equipment, labor, and professional fees ($250,000- $350,000 depending on sq ft).
Yeh! franchisees receive full training and the opportunity to work hands-on in a corporate store while their shop is being built. Once their store is up and running, training crews are sent into the store to work alongside new owners for a few weeks to ensure through training in all aspects of the job. Franchisees are also supplied with all the marketing materials needed.
“It’s a total team effort. They’re on board; we’re on board. Franchisees are our most important asset,” says Stein. “Their success is our success. We love our franchisees,” adds Jon.
Today Yeh! Yogurt is aligning with athletes of the Canadian Olympic team to convey the healthy, active lifestyle their product offers. Fan Alex Bilodeau, a 2010 Olympian, is an avid supporter of Yeh! His voice is very vocal on twitter and instrumental in recruiting fellow athletes on board.
“We are the Starbucks of the yogurt business,” says Jon. “When you walk into a Yeh!, the experience is to lounge, you want to spend time there, the atmosphere is very inviting, it’s clean, it’s a lifestyle.”
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