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Yogurt Entrepreneurs Thrive on Repeat Business

Their frozen yogurt is so good, customers will break the law for a taste of the nonfat dessert.
February 1, 2007
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/173204

Vital Stats>> Shelly Hwang, 33, and Young Lee, 42, of Pinkberry in West Hollywood, California

Company>> All-natural, nonfat frozen yogurt shop

Hidden Treasure>> For most entrepreneurs scouting out a territory, location is crucial--high visibility is great; foot traffic is even better. But when Shelly Hwang went on the hunt for the perfect spot, she readily signed the lease on a space that was far from ideal. Situated behind a building on a narrow street with minimal parking and bordering a residential neighborhood, it had been the home to several failed businesses, including a car garage and a tattoo parlor.

But from what seemed to be a doomed-to-fail situation blossomed a frozen yogurt shop offering only two flavors--plain and green tea--and 20 toppings ranging from fresh fruit to Fruity Pebbles cereal.

"When the West Hollywood residents tasted the yogurt, their mouths were like machine guns," says Lee. "They talked about it; they brought their friends. Business [has been] just phenomenal from the first month."

Frozen Assets>> The yogurt, which took a year to perfect, is all-natural, nonfat and served in a setting that features high-end Italian furniture, Scandinavian light fixtures and hip European music. Known to customers as "Crackberry," Pinkberry offers an experience so addictive that customers--up to 2,000 daily--return three to four times a week or more, even at the risk of getting $60 parking fines. But as business booms, so do the neighbors' complaints. In an effort to appease the disgruntled residents, employees patrol the neighborhood for trash while security guards control the crowds.

Spreading the Goodness>> Very soon, Pinkberry won't be so hard to find. By the end of the year, Hwang and Lee hope to have more than 50 stores open in California, 30 in New York and locations in Arizona, Florida and Texas.