(Ambrosio’s note: Welcome to this week’s edition of Fro-Yo Files, an exclusive bonus series for Platinum subscribers of Franchise Chatter. Today’s post is the first of three parts. Stay tuned for Part 2 to be posted tomorrow and Part 3 on Thursday.)
Fro-Yo Files: Interview with Dan Kim, Founder and Chief Concept Officer of Red Mango
On the eve of a major company milestone — the opening of its 200th store in five short years — Dan Kim, Founder and Chief Concept Officer of Red Mango, talks about the concept behind his brand of frozen yogurt, what sets it apart from so many others in the market, and where the company is headed as it continues to grow.
Planting the Entrepreneurial Seed
Though he is one of the kings of frozen yogurt, Dan Kim is also a jack-of-all-trades. Prior to founding Red Mango in 2007, he had tried just about everything else in business. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, he has been an intern at an accounting firm, a business consultant, an investment banker, even a wedding photographer. Influenced by his Korean parents who immigrated to the United States in 1980 to become entrepreneurs in America, Kim says he became fascinated with business in his sophomore year, after first pursuing writing.
“It was kind of cool seeing the retail side of things, that’s what I was really exposed to growing up,” he said by telephone.
When he saw the success that true frozen yogurt — containing live and active cultures rather than the mix of powder, milk, and sugar usually passed off as frozen yogurt — was having in his native country of Korea, a lightbulb went off above Kim’s head. Set on bringing the concept to the United States, he began researching how he could do it and what companies could become part of the process.
Building a Healthy Brand
“In Asia, it’s just kind of accepted that yogurt is good for you and probiotics are good for you,” Kim said. “It dawned on me that why can’t we start promoting frozen yogurt the way regular yogurt is promoted for its health benefits?”
About the same time that Kim was formulating plans to launch Red Mango USA, Dannon began to heavily promote Activia yogurt for its digestive benefits, opening the door to marketing frozen yogurt the same way. Kim soon discovered a company in Cleveland, Ohio, that had isolated a specific probiotic, GanedenBC30, which could survive extreme temperatures, making it the perfect ingredient in a frozen treat.
Red Mango would have only one main competitor — Pinkberry, which was backed by Starbucks founder Howard Schultz; but Kim, undaunted, finalized plans to open the first Red Mango in Los Angeles in 2007. At the same time the LA store was being built, he was already studying franchise possibilities for a national chain. Today, Red Mango has spread to 30 states (and with stores under construction in Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, and New Mexico, it will soon be 34) as well as Mexico. In October 2012, the 200th store is expected to open in the Greater Houston area.