commented out 3-20-23

Search Interviews:

Chad Franzen  5:57  

Yeah, yeah, you started your own brand. You’re open, you’ve opened your first location in Manhattan’s East Village in 2008. Well, I know you already had kind of experience starting some places before, but they weren’t your own. What were the what were the early days, like for your first location and 16 Handles.

Solomon Choi  6:13  

So I remember just working seven days a week goes nonstop, my first year. And when I moved to New York City, this was I signed a lease in February of 2008. I moved in March of 2008. And I opened up that first location in East Village in July of 2008. And during that time, a lot of things also happen, you know, we were going through, you know, what we look back now and referred to as the Great Recession, two major investment banks were still in operation, you know, when I moved to New York, you know, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, rest in peace, you know, but, but there was just a lot of uncertainty. And so I remember even my some of my friends telling me to, like, you’re moving across country, you know, it snows in New York, too, right? You’re leaving Southern California, where do you know, you have, you have pretty good weather conditions for this type of product. You’re going to a market, you have no familiarity with, you’ve never worked there, you’ve never lived there. And you have the seasonal changes, you don’t really have a network there. You don’t know anybody. It’s much harder to do it there. And Pinkberry also has a major foothold in New York City with frozen yogurt. So why are you doing this? And you know, if looking back on it, that was very much a David and Goliath moment, you know, I had, at that time, I remember, in October of 2007, Howard Schultz is VC firm, Maverick capital, I think, invested 27 and a half million dollars, something of that tune to Pinkberry, specifically for expansion in major markets in New York City being the first big market outside of LA. And so here I was going head to head, you know, with, with not only that, but again, a lot of others that were in the space. And I had a seed investment, I was armed with $600,000, from my family, my parents, my aunt and uncle, and in a checking account, and here I was, you know, I went to the streets of Manhattan, you know, found that first location and decided, you know, what, I’m still gonna go for it. And and I’m glad I did.

Chad Franzen  8:04  

Yeah. So So you had that seed investment, and you’ve grown organically since 2008? With no outside capital, or investors? What do you think have been some keys to that success, I mean, considering all those things you were facing when you started.

Solomon Choi  8:16  

So a couple of things. One, I was fortunate to have my cousin and my cousin Alex, who’s the CFO of the company, he came on board about a year later, and he came from that finance background. He was working in investment banking, and then in private equity. And, you know, in 2009, he was having a bit of a transition, as well as a lot of other, you know, individuals I knew in finance, and he’s like, Hey, cousin, do you need some help? And I said, Yes, I’m getting crushed here, but in a good way. And he goes, Well, what do you need help with? And I said, for one, I didn’t realize I was going to have so much franchise degree. You know, right off the bat, I thought, Oh, for sure. My first year, I have to just work the store, forgot the marketplace, understand how it works here. And then maybe I can start franchising after that. But I mean, really, we had a lineup the door from when I first opened up the doors, and I think, in doing so, again, I was working in the business as opposed to being able to work on the business, like I do now. And, and he said, he said, Well, you wanted to franchise right. That’s your background. That’s what you did before. I said, Absolutely. And he’s so what do you need in order to do that? I was like, you kind of do this thing called the Franchise Disclosure Document, we will find a franchise attorney, probably a franchise operating consultant to help write manuals. It’s a lot of the stuff I don’t like to do, right. And in addition to that, I don’t have a clean p&l yet back then, you know, probably 80% cash business versus credit card. Now that’s certainly flipped. But I said, but I know that the business is doing well. It’s a healthy business. We’re very busy. It’s very lucrative and I think franchising is is not going to be very difficult once we can get it set up. But I’m also the general manager of the store right and working seven days a week so I can’t do all this and so he said, Well, let me come help you. You know, I’m gonna probably go back into finance after three months. You know, he took a sabbatical well deserved after working five, six years. was in an industry where he was working 80 to 100 hours a week. But he came in and helped me set up some, you know, some good financial practices helped me clean things up. And ultimately, like work with, you know, our attorney, he goes, Look, I’m used to reading these legal documents. And you know, I’ve done m&a And, and so like, I think in looking at that, we, I found a a family member who I trusted. And granted, we grew up in different coasts, he grew up in New Jersey, I grew up in California, you know, we didn’t really see each other that often, but we had a good relationship growing up. And so I think that was what was important was one, I had someone who, in a business where 80% of my revenue was cash, somebody who I can trust to help manage that and put systems in place. Secondly, somebody who enjoyed or at least was a lot more capable of, you know, reading through legalese of these documents, or working with attorneys and consultants. Because, you know, for myself, you know, again, I’m the visionary of the Brand Builder. And, sure, I, you know, cut my teeth into the business, working in restaurants and managing them. But really, it’s about building a brand. Like, that’s, that’s really what I wanted to do, and really where my strength lies. And so that’s what we were able to do. So a lot of the front of the house, you know, employee staff management steps of service. And then he took care of a lot of the back of the house things like, again, the finance, the accounting, the legal, making sure, buttoned up. And so really, the two of us grew this brand, when we decided we were gonna go the franchising route, which started in 2010. And, you know, so it was having, like I said, I was having Alex by my side, who, again, was supposed to help me for three months. And that turned into, you know, for him, 13 years of me going on to my 14th year of this business, and really also then having the support of family, you know, my aunt and uncle who still today live in New Jersey, were very helpful, very early on, you know, I had no network out here. And so, you know, connecting me with local designers and architects, and just people within, you know, their trade network certainly helped. And then even just the support, right, having family, you know, where even on the holidays throughout weekends, if I decided to take it off, I had somewhere to go to get a home cooked meal. And I wasn’t alone in this, you know, concrete jungle. And so I think having that emotional support the family support the professional support from someone I trust, and then again, just this unrelenting desire to win, you know, my first location in East Village. And this is probably important, just to paint the picture, I was walking the two data points that I had New York City that I knew of Manhattan, I didn’t even know for instance, that Manhattan was part of yours. I didn’t know how any of this work. I just knew New York City, the Big Apple is similar to how a lot of people who maybe have only seen it by way of a film or media, but I knew Times Square right from from a retail perspective, and then I understood Wall Street for the movie. And so with those two data points, I was walking, day in day out meaning like Daytime, nighttime weekend weekday just to try to understand your city as a landscape. It wasn’t until one broker finally said, hey, look, you’re trying to gather this data. But you know, we have all this, we have all this in our community, I can give you a car traffic, I can give you walk by traffic, I can give you comps, what is it that you’re looking for? And ultimately, like, who is it that you’re looking for? And that was really the million dollar question that I wasn’t thinking about. So for I did this for two weeks, in January, I was walking the streets, it was very cold that time as well. But it wasn’t until he said something that then triggered, you know, my marketing prowess, which is, who’s your target demographic, you know, maybe not in those exact words. And I said, Oh, well, I also had the privilege of working for a family friend who still today owns and operates the very first self serve p by weight frozen dessert shop in Costa Mesa, California. And that’s part of the story that I don’t think I got into, but I worked for him for free for three months to really understand the ins and outs of that business model. So this is not a model that I take credit for that I invented. But I saw firsthand from the individual who has been doing that since 1990. And got to learn the ins and outs of that business. And it was at that point that I kind of put together my business plan and decided to come out to New York to do that. But yeah, it was really, you know, coming out to New York during that time. Again, it was mainly because I said what I understood even in a lot of my marketing courses, especially with consumer products, whether it’s fashion, or even now, like financial products, like New York City is the capital of that kind of media and, and brand. And so, you know, there were so many brands that I grew up with that don’t have the New York City location, you know, and so, with that, I thought why don’t I just aim for the stars shoot for the top. I got one shot at this right I’m armed with enough money to probably open up one location. And that’s exactly what I decided to do and where I landed which is on Second Avenue between ninth and 10th street. That location was formerly a Cold Stone Creamery, right internationalized Street business, then it only lasted five months before closing and within a three block radius, which for Manhattan standards is really nothing three street block radius. there was there were nine other frozen dessert competitors, ranging within frozen yogurt, you know, red mango peach Berry. But then you also had, as I mentioned, the former Coldstone, you had a Ben and Jerry’s, so you had a lot of both national and kind of regional and mom and pop stores, really sprinkled throughout that market. And I remember even my broker at the time telling me, he was like, You got to be crazy. Like, why would you want to go there? There are parts of Manhattan where within a three block radius, there’s zero ice cream or frozen dessert shops. And I said, Yeah, but I can’t take that risk. Here. After we walked. And I observed all those locations. I said, I just need to beat these nine other competitors. And if I can do that successfully, then and I asked him, I said, don’t you think that some people in New York City will say 60 handles is the number one frozen dessert concept? I mean, surely, if I’m in a sea of nine others, and there’s 10 of us, you know, and we have the longest lines, if people prefer our product, that’s probably a bold yet, you know, somewhat truthful statement to make that we are one of the best, if not the best in that area. And that’s what I was going for. That was my thesis, and my KPI for success. And he’s like, the kid, how are you going to do that? Right? And then and then the truth really came out. And, you know, my broker was a born and raised longtime New Yorker. And so you know, to see this, you know, California kid come out here with no experience of the city. And, you know, he was just like, look, I want to save you and your parents a lot of headache and money, like, Let’s go somewhere else. And I said, Absolutely not. It’s got to be here. And, and that story, you know, come June, in a few months, we’ll celebrate Its 40th birthday.

Chad Franzen  16:33  

How many stores did you have before you started franchising? Was that the only location

Solomon Choi  16:38  

so we had that location. Our second location that we opened up in 2009, happened to be in a Westfield Mall property in Paramus, New Jersey called Garden State Plaza. It’s actually a pretty well known mall here in the northeast, one of the highest grossing malls. And so we were presented with an opportunity to build inside that mall in a kiosk location that never existed. So it was like an unused space that that was presented to us. And so we opened there. So that obviously, was before franchising, but it was really during that 2009 period that Alex and I were focused on getting all of our ducks in a row, that franchising process took 11 months, which is pretty long, it should, it should take about six. But it takes it took 11 months. And so during that time, while we were operating these two stores, you know, we were certainly learning also that, hey, we also can operate in non traditional formats, it doesn’t need to be in 1200 square foot, you know, in line space, it can now also be in a mall kiosk. And that that opened up doors to get into stadiums and college campuses and you know, sort of experienced through that everything but airports, we still haven’t done an airport to

Chad Franzen  17:45  

what made you so confident that you could beat those nine other competitors when you were first starting out. And those guys were already a little more established than you are anyway,

Solomon Choi  17:54  

sure, a lot more established. I mean, let’s get real, you don’t need to be nice about it. One, you know, I’ve always been an eternal optimist. And I feel that as an entrepreneur, it’s a quality that needs to come naturally. My view on things is the cup is cup is always half full, as opposed to half empty. And in looking at it, I also relied upon just my skill sets and just my my work ethic, I knew that I was willing to outwork any of those, you know, the competitors, but also work smarter, right. And so again, I think that’s where my marketing prowess kicked in, where I thought if I can build this, because as I looked at most, if not all those brands, none of those were New York City brands, right, those were all brands that were started somewhere else, and then you know, put a location in New York City, and I thought the power of the New York City grid, right, like a Saks Fifth floor, you know, something that is reminiscent and really rooted within New York City, I thought it has a lot more staying power and, and shopping power for a consumer than just having a location there. And I thought that origin story where again, I wasn’t a first time operator, you know, I I didn’t just decide to wake up one day and be like, let me see if I can take on Pinkberry, because frozen desert looks like you know, frozen yogurt looks like a good business. I put in my dues, right? So I think even that like prior to going there. And this is a part that not many people know, I worked for three months for free for a family friend and his mom, mom and pop shop. And so over the years as others have come to me and now you know, as you had mentioned in my intro, you know, I seed invest I advise a lot of entrepreneurs who are interested in not just food service, but consumer packaged goods and food service technology. But the first thing that I always ask people who have this idea is I’m like, Would you be willing to give up your salary and your current your current career for three months to invest in yourself with all the knowledge that will make you a lot more competitive than someone else who maybe has the same idea? And what I’ve realized nine out of 10 times is they’re actually not willing to do that. So as much as they may have have this passion project that’s really driving inside of that. And I don’t you know, for I don’t take that away, like, I think that a lot of us have these passions, but those who are willing to actually pursue it and sacrifice something to really, you know, kind of put your money where your mouth is, put skin in the game more than just dollars, like literally your time your most precious asset. That’s where I’ve realized that not all entrepreneurs are even some entrepreneurs and others who may think they want to be an entrepreneur, but maybe aren’t really cut out for it. That’s really one of the first things that I look for is like, how much are you willing to sacrifice to invest into yourself to make you that much more compelling and competitive. And so in looking at that, like, I guess I always kind of put that kind of confidence in myself, just knowing that the, the only reason I’ll lose is if I decide to quit, I was like, I’m not going to lose because it’s going to be you know, being out muscled or out work ethic or, you know, are outmaneuvered with marketing. Again, I think that’s really where I’ve been able to be successful is how do you outmaneuver with a very little marketing budget, right. And I’ve never had the luxury, whether it worked for my father at his restaurant, or it or at the startup, I never had the luxury of having an advertising budget or dollars, right to be able to spend and buy media at the levels that maybe a lot of larger, more well established brands have. And so to me, it was always about, I need to stretch this penny and make it work as if it’s $1. Right. And I think that’s also where I think the crossroads of when I started in 2008 was really when social media started taking off. And businesses were just at the cusp of trying to figure out, hey, how do we attract this audience? Right, this younger generation who by the way, was my was my target demographic, it was the millennial, the millennial consumers, specifically the middle a millennial, female, and just understanding of the social channels, which I didn’t have, as an adult during college, like, you know, I, I’m in my 40s, like, I graduated past the days of Facebook and all that. And so I had to learn those from my NYU student customer base. But they were eager to teach me because I was willing to learn. And so that’s the other thing I would say, is just having that open mind and realizing I don’t know everything. And even what I know, today in 10 years, may not be as relevant, you know, there may be something new. And we’re seeing this even within social platforms, right? I mean, I was very early on as a business owner using things like Facebook and Twitter. And we were the first brand in the world to actually use Snapchat, which still today is relevant, but tick tock is certainly taken a lot of its, its luster. So for me, what I realized is don’t fall in love with a certain platform, but fall in love with following your consumer and where he or she wants to communicate and converse and, and have commerce. And so I think being committed to that, and I still am today, just as much as I was 14 years ago, I think that’s probably one of the reasons why said without having to reach out to outside investors raise money, I’ve been able to organically grow. And again, still use that mentality of stretching that Penny, which now isn’t a penny that was maybe a couple of bucks, but be able to do the type make the type of influence and impact on my brand. That maybe again, in a traditional setting, I would need hundreds of dollars that could do that with maybe 10s of dollars.

Chad Franzen  23:12  

So you’ve been franchising for about 1112 years now, what makes 16 Handles a good opportunity for a franchisee and what do you look for in a franchisee?

Solomon Choi  23:22  

So I think one of the things that I’ve realized that come to learn is not everybody. And as a matter of fact, I think I only had one franchisee over the course of the past, you know, 12 years or so in franchising that came with a restaurant background, like culinary background, they were actually franchisees of another food franchise. But outside of that, actually no, there were two, because we actually have one co branded store where there’s a subway and a 16 Handles with under the same roof. So two food service operators, but primarily, these were people who were, you know, attorneys, business people in finance, you know, maybe, you know, someone who wasn’t working maybe like, you know, someone was a full time mom, and now kids are older and you know, she wants to run a business. So it’s the ease of being able to transition and to teach someone how to have a very similar result. And to me like that, when it when it comes to franchising specifically within foodservice, that’s how I at least look at it from a quadrate standpoint is I think the strongest franchises are the ones that are most easily replicable with the highest level of consistency. Right. And so in our business where it’s self serve, we’re heavily dependent upon not only our product provider, but our equipment, right to work, because it’s not a skilled position where somebody’s necessarily scooping like we did in my previous life with the gelato concept or making the product within the store. You know, we’re really pouring product that is made from a manufacturer. So you can’t really get the product run unless you putting it in the wrong machine. So it kind of like error proofs, a lot of things that otherwise you wouldn’t have to rely more on that human element to get correct. Secondly, speaking of human element, it’s a self serve model, which means it’s a lower labor model. And I think that, especially today, where a lot of foodservice operators because of the pandemic and discrete resignation era that we’re going through, a lot of those jobs just aren’t being filled, people aren’t coming back to those, there’s a huge gig economy. And so you can make a lot more being a part time Amazon driver, or Uber Eats driver. And so I think, because people have a lot more choices, this idea of going back and working in let’s say, a traditional minimum wage setting, where let’s keep it real, like those jobs aren’t easy, right? They’re hard. For our business, we don’t do any kind of cooking. So I think for one to a landlord, that’s, that’s a benefit, we don’t need any ventilation, there’s no, you know, there’s not gonna be a fire because of cooking. And then also be, you know, for employees, the risk of being injured on the job is also a lot less, because we’re not really dealing with with that type of environment. And it’s fewer employees that are needed. And so specifically, for an owner operator, this is a great opportunity, because the startup cost of opening up to 16 Handles is a fraction of what it would be for, let’s say, a big burger chain or pizza chain. Secondly, it’s much easier to upgrade because you need fewer people to do it. And it’s not that we don’t do trade, again, we still have Ireland training, but you don’t need to go to let’s say, a Hamburger University for six months to learn how to do this. And because there is a seasonality factor in incorporated into the business, that actually also helps even with the labor management. So our stores can be operated with as few as one, one individual, which during the winters, that’s typically the case, you’ll have one opener, and even in the summer and the busiest of times when we’re, you know, having people taking shipments that are coming in a product, four or five people. So you know, to be able to do that and to have an operation that can, you know, generate a million dollars plus a year, which you know, our best locations do with a staff of you know, that’s on shift from one to five employees, that metric doesn’t really exist in the food service world. And so like, I think for one, when looking at it like that, that’s a key competitive advantage, low build out cost, low labor, and yet still be able to fluctuate with a lot of part time labor. And that’s the other thing too, is I think, because our labor pools typically skews young, you know, again, we have a lot of minimum wage first time job employees. It’s a fun environment for them, right? Like they’re not there, they’re out there with the guests more often than being you know, in the back doing some some some menial task. And it’s a fun environment. I mean, who doesn’t love, you know, frozen dessert and soft stuff, it’s like a happy environment. And the people coming in are coming in because they choose to, you know, indulge, not because they have to eat, let’s say lunch or dinner. So I think from that standpoint, to it’s just we deal with much happier customers, and who are who are less in a rush, right. And so I think those things are all positive. And the other thing that was really instrumental for our business as well. And again, I credit this to being in New York City, is we were one of the first at least in the frozen dessert space to have to be on all the delivery platforms that you know, most consumers are now privy to because of you know, what had to happen during the pandemic, but most restaurants are actually shut down. We’ve been doing delivery for eight years. So we’ve mastered how to deliver softserve without melting for eight years, like this isn’t Oh, we learned it in the past two because of a pandemic. And as a result of that, we’ve invested into our technology stack, our mobile app, where you can order direct, you know, directly from our website, or our app, or you can go on to your favorite third party delivery provider we’re on there. And the convenience, which I think that convenience is key for a customer is there. So if you don’t want to come into the store, and if you really think about it, Chad, like during the pandemic, this is a self serve environment where people are touching things. I mean, that was taboo. I had some franchisees, in April of 2020 think that our business model is dead, it was never going to be able to come back from this just because it was in a very heightened state. You know, the epicenter of COVID-19 in the US was in New Rochelle in New York, where we have a location, but you know, and so, certainly those things made us think differently and pivot. But we’re still here, you know, we’re still kind of like, you know, thriving in the sense that we have had our biggest product partnership ever in the brand’s history. And that was a conversation that was had by myself and the president of Oatley, you may have heard of, you know, they went public last year. And we developed, you know, a 16 Handles and an oblique proprietary like soft serve line within our stores. And so, why did that was really my interest. Like I said, I’ve just really following the consumer and consumer behavior, consumer patterns and the shifting tastes of consumers. And, you know, for a long time we had those that were looking for maybe more vegan options or plant based options as it’s really become more popular now. And we weren’t addressing that in a meaningful way. We’ve always had non dairy sorbets so technically I’ve always had a vegan or a non dairy option, but are more citing flavors, you know, we’re not always just fruits surveys. And so you know, it was really a commitment to that it’s, Hey, if we’re this inclusive bread, that’s really a one stop shop, frozen dessert shop for all people of all dietary celebrations, as we like to call it that just restrictions. But celebrations, then we really need to stay committed to that from a product standpoint. And so I think that that evolution was really started about four years ago, but we really kind of like planted that flag. Last year, with our partnership with Oakley, which is continuing on this year as well, is we are now an omni channel platform, because of our operational ability to deliver the product within 30 minutes or so like if you go to 16Handles.com and you order, you know, saucer, you’ll probably get it within 30 minutes, on average. So you have that capability, which even a grocery store doesn’t offer you that. Secondly, our business promotes and actually encourages discovery trial sampling, right. And so this is something that our customers come in expecting as part of the experience. And so I say all this because you had mentioned like what makes this a great opportunity. Now, I think more so than ever. This is it. This addresses a lot of the pain points that I see in the food service industry now, which is still expensive build outs, right? I mean, people are talking about, oh, well, maybe we can just convert everything to ghost kitchens, which I think it can be a part of your strategy. But if you’re a cloud or a ghost kitchen, in an industrial part of town that people aren’t driving by or looking at like the one advertising you’re going to have like, I think that’s very difficult to build a brand like that. I think if you’re already a well established brand, that you can certainly address pockets around the country where that makes sense. But to create a brand and be part of what makes sense, in terms of getting these locations, especially in these busy streets of New York City as these are ongoing billboards that people walk by live above work next to and so like that constant engagement of impressions, and then when the weather warms up again, this like knee jerk reaction to I want something cold and satisfying. You know, there’s that, and then being able to now be a place where other brands can collaborate and create another product platform that they don’t have, right. So we love working with brands that aren’t in, let’s say, the ice cream of the saucer space. Why because this gives a form factor that’s unique. And especially during the summer months, in the warmer months, we’re we’re very relevant. It’s a great marketing partnership for us, because it creates again, brand awareness and affinity for their their product, which may lose some of that, you know, to companies like ours, which are very, you know, relevant during that time. And so I think that it’s those, it’s those factors, and I know it kind of went all over the place, but they’re probably those four or five different factors that make 60 handles and attractive business. And it’s also something that’s easily scalable. And so unlike some other foodservice franchise options, where again, the cost of build out is very expensive. The cost of human capital is very expensive. You know, without naming names, like I know, certain burger franchises, you can’t open unless you have 30 to 40 people on payroll, right, and that they’ve gone through training, you know, and so, I myself realize this my first summer in 2008, when I opened up the locate, I opened up my store in East Village. And like two opening staff, one was a cashier, one was supposed to do fruit prep, they both called one of them called out one of them was a no call no show. And this happens in the industry, right? You find out that they’re not showing up because they don’t show up. And they don’t call you. But I was there and I well, it was challenging for me, I got the store up and running, I was able to open up. And by the time my cashier came in, and the one who did call it she was stuck on a subway, and, you know, which is awesome when that happens. But by the time she came in, which was an hour and a half after she was supposed to be there, I had already run up $100 and was in operation. How many restaurants can do that? There, you can’t, you know, most retailers can’t even do that. And so that’s what I realized that this business while it is food service, and while it is seasonal, and while it has, you know some of these other things where it’s a luxury, you don’t have to eat, you know, softserve or frozen dessert, like most people have to eat lunch or dinner. But again, if you make it very desirable, you make it very relevant and engaging. It’s not something that needs to close down during the winter, like people still consume frozen frozen dessert and being here in the Northeast. I mean, there’s actually statistics that show that those in New England consume more ice cream per capita than anywhere else in the world. And it doesn’t fall off during the winter. So, you know, there is, I think a good product fit for people’s natural consumption behavior, but being best in class and being a relevant brand that much you know, is not guaranteed that that needs to be heard. Like that’s what keeps us going.

Chad Franzen  34:44  

I have I have one more question for you. But first, how can people find out more about potentially becoming a franchisee and just about 16 Handles in general as a customer? How can people find out more?

Solomon Choi  34:54  

So all of our social channels it’s the number 16 Handles with an S 16Handles.com, you can find all of our information there. And in I would also say, you know, just, I look forward to q2 where we’re going to have, we’re actually going through a rebrand right now as well. So that’s really exciting. So taking everything that we’ve learned and everything we’ve learned even during the last two years of the pandemic, and we’re working with a world class agency that works with a lot some of the largest food franchises and we will have the new and improved version of what 16 Handles will be. And I think that that will also attract a lot of new franchise that interest because, again, we’re a brand that continues to evolve, and we won’t stop the and I think that the last 14 years and a great recession and now a pandemic have proven that this is a pretty good business to be in if we can weather those storms, all you know being privately funded. Sure. Sure.

Chad Franzen  35:46  

I have one more question for you. As you mentioned, it’s an ever evolving process. But at last check it well. Last time I checked it at seven flavors. That included peanut butter, perfection, American apple pie, banana pudding, Chuck, delicious peach, sangria, Sorbetto, and Oatly. Cheat chai tea. How do you guys come up with all these flavors? And do you have a favorite.

Solomon Choi  36:09  

So our flavor development is an ongoing process. It’s one of the most favorite things, parts of my job, we work with some great co packers and manufacturers. And I get to be literally like that kid in the candy store every year, one of our CO packers in Michigan, I go out there and for three, four days. And again, this sounds a lot better than it really is. But if you’re eating just saw Phsar for three, four days straight for six, six hours a day trust me your your tastebuds want something like salty and crunchy. But I do that to help again, develop our flavors. And so every single flavor that’s come into 16 Handles, I personally would have to sign off on and I’m very much involved in that process. And even with the team I worked with, with their head of development for frozen, and we work in tandem in person to sign up on these flavors together. And so I think again, it’s a commitment to that type of, you know, r&d and the product process that I think also has us you know, standout my favorite. That’s always a funny question that I get. I would say one of my favorites is our so fresh mango Sorbetto. It uses these Alphonso mangoes, which are some of the sweetest mangoes in the world that come from India. And so it uses the Alphonso mango puree. And on a visit to India, I actually got to try that mango. And I was like I’ve never had a mango that tasted like this, I need this flavor in the handles. And so that’s one of my favorites. And then if I’m depends on the beauty, that’s what I think is the beauty of 16 Handles is fun them in the mood for maybe something lighter and I want to be healthier. And I’ll go for like our Euro tart. If I want something more indulgent, I love our salted caramel when I had my sweet tooth days. And so there’s kind of something for everybody. And depending on the mood and the mood can change. You know, I think Monday’s feels very different than Friday night when I’m done with the week, right? So I want to be able to celebrate. However I hover I want to I think that’s the beauty of it, too is the way I want to do it how much how little with toppings without, there’s no judgement and there’s no right or wrong. It’s literally whatever you feel like is the right answer. And so I think people have come accustomed to that where it’s not like, Hey, you have to buy this small and it cost this much. You get to determine what that is. And you know, we’re in a position today where customization personalization and experience. People are craving that right. And so I think that’s where we’re heading shoulders above a lot of our peers in the frozen dessert space just because it’s also not easy to get this this level of variety of saucer outside of the 16 Handles you can get here in the northeast and Mr. Softee truck for three months out of the year. But you have chocolate and vanilla, you know, or you can go to McDonald’s. And if they do happen to have a working saucer machine again, it’s just that vanilla. So I think there’s this FOMO aspect of if I want softserve it’s not at my house. Most homes I know don’t have a saucer machine. Most schools and most businesses don’t. So, certainly grocery store. So again, like I think there’s this niche that we’re filling that I think we’ve been very successful at.

Chad Franzen  39:07  

Hey, Solomon, thanks so much for joining me today. It’s been great hearing your story. Congratulations on all of your success, and best wishes moving forward. Thank you so much.

Solomon Choi  39:17  

My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Chad Franzen  39:19  

so long, everybody.

Outro  39:20  

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