Business

Yogurtland CEO Shares Secrets of His Entrepreneurial Success

I have a collection of Yogurtland spoons. True story. Yogurtland is our go-to frozen yogurt place, especially since there’s one right by our house. There are always new flavors and toppings to try and cool marketing tie-ups like that one with Sanrio, during which times I collected the spoons. And then there was the Flavor Quest last year, when POG Sorbet from Hawaii and Mexican Hot Chocolate were introduced. Also, the place is always very clean and the workers seem happy.

In a crowded market of frozen yogurt treats, it is things like these that make Yogurtland stand out. But what truly sets them apart is the leadership and vision of Founder and CEO Phillip Chang.

Phillip Chang was the guest last week at the Irvine Chamber of Commerce’s Legends & Leaders program, an intimate and informal way to hear ideas, business concepts and encouragement from leading Orange County entrepreneurs. (Thank you very much to Paradise Perks for inviting me to their table.)

yogurtland

Chang has a strong Korean accent and speaks softly but the inspiring entrepreneurial stories he shared came across loud and clear. Kudos to moderator/interviewer Albert Napoli too.

Immigrant stories about coming to America for a better life are not uncommon. But each story of failure and success is interesting. Chang came to the country in his twenties and he didn’t speak a word of English. He shared about how he tried to learn the language by listening to the radio but the pop stations used a lot of slang, which he couldn’t grasp. He was surprised, for example, to find out that a couple of bucks meant a few dollars! He said, he then listened to Christian sermons where pastor’s sermons were broadcast and they would speak slowly and with correct grammar, making it a better English-language learning experience.

After working through physical jobs (box boy at a liquor store, pizza delivery job), he eventually found himself working at a fabric manufacturer as an accountant, and later found success as a freelance computer programmer.

But it wasn’t until he decided to start a Boba (bubble tea) business that he became a full-fledged entrepreneur. He unknowingly started franchising Boba Loca stores, 33 stores in 4 years, but that’s another story.

As for Yogurtland, Chang says he researched the frozen yogurt and ice cream market and found that frozen yogurt was poised to take off. Throughout the Irvine Chamber’s Legends and Leaders session, Chang often talked about how he researched the business and checked the numbers. (He was, after all, a math major in Korea). His diligence is evident in all his endeavors.

It is his Christian values, however, that guide his business and his life.

During the early years of Yogurtland’s rapid growth, Chang reveals that while things were getting done and stores were opening and experiencing success, there was still something missing. He then realized the importance of creating a corporate culture based on his Christian beliefs. It wasn’t enough to just be nice and treat the employees well. He realized Yogurtland had to be a team, bound by similar beliefs and a culture of helping one another.

At the back of his business card are these beliefs.

THTK – Totally honest, totally kind
Humble
Passionate
Innovative
Teamwork

Marcie Taylor with Yogurtland CEO Phillip Chang
The author with Yogurtland CEO Phillip Chang at Irvine Chamber of Commerce luncheon event.

Chang reveals that Yogurtland has “no time cards because of honesty, we always trust each other.” He reveals that their company is like “Navy SEALS, you know. They move quickly and trust each other, without words they know what to do and get job the done.”

At the end of the luncheon, he shared this advice for those in the franchise business:
“Find the right franchisee and find the right location.” Finally, he said the secret to his success is simple: “ (Everything you do) You must have a strong philosophy. Mine is based on my Christian faith. I read proverbs everyday. I live by it.”