Solomon Choi is the Founder and CEO of 16 Handles, the first self-serve frozen yogurt store to open in New York City. Also the Co-founder of Greeno Products, he is an entrepreneur, advisor, and investor with a background in hospitality. Solomon is an Advisor for Hooray Foods, Kolkata Chai Co., Lunchbox, and Optamark, an Investor for Bikky, Sunscoop, and MCTco., and a Hospitality Partner at Branded Strategic Hospitality.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- Solomon Choi details his desire to create a franchise and his methods for organic growth
- How Solomon executed his business plan in a saturated ice cream market
- Understanding social channels to market to a broader audience and demographic
- Creating a competitive advantage through a healthy work environment
- Solomon explains his commitment to product development and customization
In this episode…
In this episode of the SpotOn Series, Chad Franzen speaks with Founder and CEO of 16 Handles, Solomon Choi, about developing and cultivating a frozen-yogurt lifestyle brand. With Solomon’s optimistic attitude, he is an entrepreneur that delivers what customers want: convenience. By navigating social platforms and creating a healthy work environment, he has established lasting brands that resonate across all demographics and lifestyles.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show. Powered by Rise25 Media. We featured top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world
Chad Franzen 0:20
Chad Franzen here co host for this show where we feature top restaurant tours, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called spot on restaurant, where they combined marketing software and payments all in one. They’ve served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and subway to small mom and pop restaurants. To learn more go to spoton.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build a great relationship with clients referral partners and thought leaders in your space. There’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to RiSE 25 media.com or email us at support at rise25media.com Solomon Choi is the founder and CEO of 16 Handles New York City’s first self serve frozen dessert shop, which he first opened in 2008. He’s also the co founder of Greeno products, manufacturer and distributor of environmentally friendly food service disposable packaging, Salomon advises and invests in early stage companies focused on food and beverage and technology. Solomon, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?
Solomon Choi 1:32
I’m doing well. Thanks, Chad. Thanks for having me.
Chad Franzen 1:34
Hey, so 16 Handles has 30 locations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida. Can you describe a typical location for me and what a customer might expect when they go there?
Solomon Choi 1:45
Sure. So a typical location is going to be between 12 116 100 square feet. You walk in, we have a soft serve wall featuring 16 flavors that have a variety ranging from frozen yogurt, sorbets, vegan soft serve ice cream, and about 40 to 50 different toppings and so the customer goes in selects their cup. It’s a self serve p by weight environment. And we were the pioneers in New York City back in 2008. When I started this business,
Chad Franzen 2:13
very nice. What did you been doing prior to 2008 prior to 16 Handles.
Solomon Choi 2:17
So prior to 16 Handles, I had a chance to work for a startup Hospitality Group we were acquiring as well as opening up our own full service Japanese restaurants. Prior to that my father was a multi unit franchisee so you can kind of see how my path took me in that direction. He had three different Japanese buffet franchise restaurants. And I got to cut my teeth in the industry by running one of his locations and down in San Diego, California. That was in a turnaround situation and successfully turned it around and we sold it. And so I decided to continue down that path. And when I joined the startup Hospitality Group, I wore a ton of different hats. And so I opened up I was the opening general manager of one of the restaurants, I did marketing, which is my background. And I eventually became the director of franchise development for a Texas based gelato franchise that our group purchased the rights for, for Southern California development. And so got to kind of put, you know, have my hands in all of those different, you know, areas within food service management and franchising. And that’s when I decided to kind of go solo and create my own brand, which has always been a dream of mine, you know, I studied Marketing during my, during my university years, and it just the power of building a brand, a consumer brand that people can gravitate towards has always been something that I wanted to do,
Chad Franzen 3:34
what kind of gave you the desire to go solo, you know, it’s, I guess it’s kind of easy for some people to just stay where they are, rather than start from the ground up and kind of build something of your own.
Solomon Choi 3:45
There were two distinct kind of scenarios that that created that desire. One was, I was in a position where I realized that the founder and CEO of the company also owned the majority of the company. And so it was kind of a lot of the ideas that I had, you know, after certain point when I realized that, hey, like, I think that these are good ideas, I’d love to try them. And I realized, well, you don’t get to do it just because you want to do it. Even if you’re in charge, and you’re at the restaurant seven days a week working it, it needs to be yours in order to do that. So I thought that this idea of creating my own brand, right do have complete creative and operational control was something that I really desired. And then secondly, I was responsible for franchising, a gelato brand at a time when the likes of pink berry and some of these other pioneers would have been frozen yogurt, the early to mid 2000s. Were really starting to boom. And so I found that a lot of my discovery days and sales calls were met with Hey, so what are you doing about Froyo everybody wants to throw your frozen yogurt. And I’m like this is a gelato franchise. It’s Italian ice cream. We don’t do frozen yogurt. And you say that enough time and you hear that enough times and you realize, I think I’m selling the wrong product. You’re within this category. And so, you know, one of the things within marketing is you want to be relevant It was being, you know, engaging to the guest. And I just felt that there was a whole nother product line that was really resurfacing. And I remember frozen yogurt during the 80s. And you know, when I was growing up, but this time around, I saw it as really more of a lifestyle brand and, and even just the shift in behavior. Again, I learned this from working at a Japanese all you can eat buffet to then a higher end sushi restaurant, people were really looking for, you know, higher quality curation and more unique experiences, as opposed to just value. And so I think even with the shift from, let’s say, traditional ice cream and gelato to frozen yogurt, because of, you know, fewer calories, maybe some health benefits, again, there was this desire to really unlock another platform that had been dormant for many years. And I saw that shift. So one of the things that I realized is, once I, once I saw that I could either continue to choose to ignore it and you know, swim upstream or, you know, I can kind of ride that wave, and then also have the opportunity to break off and start my own brand. And so that’s what I decided to do.