sweetFrog: A Leap of Faith
For most people, 2009 was not a banner year to commemorate. Like most of the world, the United States was in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and our GDP was stuck in a rut of nearly -3%. It was hardly the climate to be planning the launch of a new star tup. But that’s exactly what Derek Cha and his wife Annah Kim were preparing to do.
Rather than succumb to the negativity that was permeating every aspect of our culture, Derek had a vision of launching a new business that would provide jobs, hope and source of optimism. What was that vision? It was that of a self-serve frozen yogurt shop. While it might sound like a fun “hobby,” it’s not one that seems likely to survive the turbulence of the economic times, let alone grow to a multimillion dollar company.
Derek was confident that God had given him the vision and relied upon his faith and support of family and friends and launched his first store in Richmond, Virginia in 2009. He wanted to make sure that God was given glory in his endeavor and named his company sweetFrog (Frog is an acronym for Fully Rely on God). He was also aware of the dire climate of the economy and wanted to provide a cheerful experience the moment you walked in the door of a sweetFrog store. The shop decor is ultra-bright with the sweetFrog mascots “Scoop” and “Cookie” displayed playfully throughout the store. They sell t-shirts, hats and other logo merchandise in the same bright colors, which also serves to solidify their brand.
Selling frozen yogurt isn’t a new concept; there were other big players in the premium frozen yogurt market, the largest being TCBY. Undeterred by the odds, Derek had some ideas about how to make sweetFrog more appealing to consumers than the competitors. He wanted it to be simple and economical for the store owners as well as for families. He also knew that the product had to be consistently appealing. To help accomplish this, he offered a dozen or more flavors of frozen yogurt and changed them daily. The yogurt flavors range from the exotic, such as Raspberry Pomegranate and Honey Lavender, to twists on classics such as Snickerdoodle and Butter Brickle. In addition to offering nearly one hundred different flavors of yogurt, they offer literally hundreds of optional toppings, ranging from fresh fruit and nuts to brownie and cookie crumbs, marshmallows and chocolate chips. Rather than charging based on a certain sized container, customers are charged by the ounce; yogurt, toppings and all. You’re in charge of how much or how little you get.