How can a brand grow?
Phillip Chang has wrestled with this question many times – like in 2004, when his bubble tea franchise, Boba Loca, hit a wall. “I couldn’t solve the problem by just adding another drink,” he says. “I wanted something more, something bigger.” So he created Yoghurtlanda brand of self-serve frozen yogurt that has garnered international acclaim (and many imitators).
Seventeen years later, Yogurtland is still going strong – no small feat in the ever-changing food world. And Chang is ready to grow again. Over the past two years, he has introduced two new concepts within the Yogurtland brand: Holsom from Yogurtland – a quick, casual and healthy meal joint – and egg and bird, which specializes in a Korean chicken sandwich (and doesn’t use the Yogurtland brand). Here, Chang discusses the art of innovation, diversification, and gaining competitive advantage.
You approach expansion with great caution. Tell me about it.
I don’t like expansion for no reason. My philosophy is: Why am I doing this job and what is the end goal? It must be very trained. Without it, everyone is after money. If you don’t have your own philosophy or a good foundation of who you are, that’s okay. Identity is so critical. You have to start from there.
So where did the Holsom and Egg N Bird concepts come from?
Before we expanded, I wanted to build strong roots with Yogurtland. Doing this gave us a lot of great ideas. I thought, How can we improve it?
We started with quality. That’s how I found Holsom. It is a very light and nutritious food. But with Holsom, there’s always a yogurt connection. I wanted to go beyond that – explore a real meal. So for Egg N Bird, we did a lot of research to ask, What is the demand there?
The market for beef is huge, but I thought people might have missed the chicken opportunity, and chicken is a healthier option. I am Korean and there are many chicken restaurants in Korea. I knew how they served chicken, and so with our amazing team, we gathered demand for our market and came up with this amazing chicken sandwich.
How do you think continuous innovation and diversification have contributed to the success of your brands?
In the restaurant industry, we think of trends in terms of cycles. There are tough times, but one thing that never changes is that a great brand can win in any type of cycle.
With Yogurtland, frozen yogurt consumption is constantly going up and down, but we have such quality that we continue to thrive. We support a large portion of the ice cream market.
The same is true with Holsom and Egg N Bird. When we have the best quality and deliver value to our customers, we can lead the market.
What advice do you have for business owners going through a not-so-good sales cycle? How do you stay motivated in times when it’s not the best?
All entrepreneurs should have their own philosophy and beliefs – an identity and a clear sense of who you are. What do you want to get out of it?
Always try to look at the whole picture. When a leader is so into small operations, he misses big trends. You need to understand if a market is changing from a typical beef burger to a chicken sandwich – there are plenty of signs. If they read them in advance, they can plan. Take a step back. And always take time to reflect on your life, your family, your goals, the people around you, and what you are trying to accomplish.