You may think that the frozen dessert market has seen just about everything. But 16 Handles is proving that there are still innovative new offerings in this space. Read about how the frozen yogurt shop is changing things up in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.
What the Business Does
Brings a new twist to the traditional frozen yogurt shop.
Owner and CEO Neil Hershman told Small Business Trends, “16 Handles is the evolution of the self-serve frozen yogurt shop but modernized for today’s consumer. Our soft-serve products range from vegan, nonfat and no sugar added frozen yogurt to rich and creamy ice cream, with 50+ toppings and fresh fruit to add on top.
“Our stores also feature fruit smoothies, milkshakes, acai bowls, cookie dough, and really anything you could want when you need a treat. I personally operate seven stores across NYC. But I also manage the brand where we have franchisees stretching the East Coast from Boston to Florida, and Texas, operating their own locations in their hometowns!”
Offering a premium experience.
Hershman says, “Our lineup of frozen yogurt, sorbet, and vegan soft serve flavors are artisan and proprietary, with better ingredients and addictive flavors. This, combined with the modern and comfortable setting – akin to a hip lounge designed for the millennial generation of 20 something to 40-year old’s with young families — has led us to have higher Average Unit Volume, which is the total revenue per location, than our competitors. Many of our stores have seen consistent year over year sales increases and earned really positive organic reviews. We stay consistent and relevant with effective marketing and loyalty programs. And, in my opinion, our tech stack is lightyears ahead of anyone else in frozen dessert.”
Small Business Deals
How the Business Got Started
To bring something new to NYC’s frozen dessert scene.
Hershman explains, “16 Handles was originally founded as NYC’s first self-serve soft serve frozen yogurt shop, designed to compete with Pinkberry and the other frozen yogurt concepts in Manhattan that were limited on flavor and topping selection and didn’t allow customers to own their creations. Today, the product lineup has expanded. And so has the brand. But we are still focused on selling spoonfuls of happiness. And it just so happens to be healthier than traditional ice cream!
“I was first introduced to 16 Handles as a customer of the East Village store, where I became a frequent loyal customer grabbing froyo after the gym, after dinner with friends, or even just as a midday weekday pick-me-up. After leaving behind my finance career for my own entrepreneurial ventures, I saw the opportunity for a new, active operator to lead 16 Handles into a new phase of growth, creating systems to scale nationally using the lessons learned from over a decade of real-world experience and data for the 30-unit brand.
Opening new stores.
Hershman adds, “The happiest days in our business as the franchisor for 16 Handles is at the grand opening of a new location. To see months of hard work come together in a perfectly designed store, the smiles on the guest in the crowd who are so excited to have a 16 Handles in their community, and the optimism of the local franchise partner as they welcome their first guest is such a rewarding moment! I really treat each and every franchisee as family, and work so closely with them during development and training. So it’s so great to see it all come together. And even with 15 more opening scheduled over the next 6 months, I don’t think I’ll take any for granted or ever get old of it.”
Create a winning marketing strategy.
Hershman says, “One of the toughest decisions in really any business today, especially a growing business, is whether to keep marketing in-house, or work with an agency. A dedicated in-house marketing team will certainly know the brand better and have more time to spend on projects. But agencies offer the benefit of a larger knowledge base, powerful software, and a larger network. We’ve gone with a bit of a hybrid approach at 16 Handles. And it’s worked out well. But recently we’ve begun bringing in more people for our in-house team as we want to focus on marketing in the new territories where we have stores under construction. In hindsight, I could have begun building out the marketing team sooner. But I feel like our agencies really helped get us to where we are today. And we’ll make the transition over the coming weeks and months as we begin increasing ad spend across Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas.”
How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000
Improving the franchise experience.
Hershman explains, “We are completely focused on finding the right franchise partners in key markets across the country and helping them open stores that are destined for a decade of profits. When they win, we win. We continue to re-invest all of our profits on bettering the franchise operation, implementing new technologies, and offer better training and oversight of our stores. Two things will keep out same store revenue increasing – staying relevant and consistent. So that’s how we spend our money.”
Launching new flavors.
Hershman adds, “One of the perks to our jobs is that every month we get to test a bunch of samples for upcoming flavors. There’s a lot that goes into brainstorming new flavors. Some of it is market research and trend analysis. But sometimes it’s just “what if we try mixing this and that.”
“In the latter category, we’ve made some creations that taste awful. But on the flip side, we’ve crafted some amazing artisan flavors and have awesome ones coming up. At 16 Handles, we launch a new flavor on the 16th of each month!”
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Image: Images: 16 Handles, Neil Hershman