How can a brand grow?
Phillip Chang has grappled 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 Yogurtland, a self-serve frozen yogurt brand that sparked an international craze (and plenty of copycats).
Seventeen years later, Yogurtland is still going strong – no small feat in the ever-changing world of food. And Chang is ready to expand again. Over the past two years he has introduced two new concepts within the Yogurtland brand: Holsom from Yoghurtland — a fast-casual, healthy meal joint — and Egg N Bird, which specializes in a Korean chicken sandwich (and doesn’t use Yogurtland branding). Here Chang discusses the art of innovation, diversification and gaining a competitive advantage.
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You approach expansion very carefully. Tell me about that.
I don’t like expansion for nothing. My philosophy is: Why am I doing this business and what is the end goal? That must be very formed. Without it, everyone is just chasing money. If you don’t have your own philosophy or a good foundation of who you are, it’s nothing. Identity is so crucial. You should 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. By doing that, we came up with a lot of good ideas. I thought, How can we make it better?
We started with quality. That’s how I came across Holsom. It is very light and nutritious food. But with Holsom, there is still a connection with yogurt. I wanted to go further – discover a real meal. So for Egg N Bird we did a lot of research to ask: What’s the question there?
The beef market is huge, but I thought maybe people 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 the chicken, so we with our great team brought together the demand for our market and came up with this amazing chicken sandwich.
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How do you think innovation and continued diversification have contributed to the success of your brands?
In the hospitality industry, we think of trends in terms of cycles. There are challenging times, but one thing that never changes is that a top brand can win in any cycle.
With Yogurtland, frozen yogurt consumption is constantly up and down, but we have such great quality that we continue to thrive. We are taking over a large part of the ice cream market.
The same goes for Holsom and Egg N Bird. If we have top quality and value to our customers, we can dominate the market.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs going through a not-so-great sales cycle? How do you stay motivated in times when things are not going well?
All entrepreneurs should have their own philosophy and beliefs – an identity and a clear idea of who you are. What do you want to accomplish with this?
Always try to look at the whole picture. When a leader is so preoccupied with small operations, they miss big trends. You have to understand if a market is changing from a typical beef burger to a chicken sandwich – there are many signs. Reading them in advance helps them plan. Take a step back. And always make time for meditation – about your life, your family, your goals, the people around you and what you are trying to achieve.
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