The Big Chill

Breaking The Ice

Today, Yogen Früz boasts more than 3,600 stores worldwide and 1997 sales of $360 million. That's due in part to the company's acquisition within the past three years of the Canadian franchise Paradise Juice Bar and the American chain Golden Swirl, as well as I Can't Believe It's Yogurt (ICBIY) and Bresler's Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt, two American franchises that had already formed strong footholds in the international frozen fare market.

In October, Yogen Früz extended its reach even further through a merger with Integrated Brands, parent company of Swensen's Ice Cream, Heidi's Frogen Yozurt and Steve's Ice Cream--adding 400 additional stores to its skyrocketing tally. The Integrated Brands stores, which will keep their individual names, bring the Serruyas another perk and give their franchise operation a fresh angle: exclusive rights to frozen desserts from such well-known brand names as Tropicana, Betty Crocker and Yoplait.

"I don't think in our wildest dreams we ever fathomed we'd be where we are today," says Michael, 33. "It all just kind of happened, and every once in a while you look back and say `Wow!' "

All this excitement can be traced back to a dream--and a $100,000 investment from the Serruyas' father. Initially, the brothers wanted to purchase master franchise rights to Canada from one of the large, established U.S. frozen yogurt franchises. Easier said than done, remembers Aaron: "I was 19 at the time, and Mike was 20," he says. "We didn't get much respect when we went to see those franchisors."

That stumbling block set the stage for the brothers to set out on their own--and make frozen yogurt history. Michael enlisted the expertise of a leading Canadian design firm to iron out the entire Yogen Früz concept, while Aaron worked for months with a food technician perfecting their frozen yogurt flavors. A year later, in 1986, they premiered the store--and were so successful, they paid their father back within six months. By the time Simon, 27, jumped on board three years later, Yogen Früz had franchised an impressive 100 locations across Canada.

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This article was originally published in the January 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Big Chill.

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