Yeh! It’s Here to Stay

Yeh! Yogurt and Café

The Gurman twins are living proof of the age old adage, ‘Great minds think alike’.

As co-CEOs of Yeh! Yogurt and Café, Canada’s first self serve frozen yogurt, Marvin and twin brother Jon Gurman are not frozen in time when it comes to moving forward with their successful business venture. And successful they are. The pair has created a swirl of activity and interest here in Canada and the United States and eventually will do likewise internationally.

The “Gurman twins”, as they’ve come to be known, have 35 years of marketing and branding skills incorporated in to their Yeh! Yogurt and Café, generating enthusiastic interest from prospective franchisees hoping to be part of one of Canada’s fastest growing food franchises.

Humble beginnings

Marvin and Jon’s exposure to the corporate world began in 1978 when the brothers, now 54, joined JCorp Incorporated, an enterprise that grew from a small hat business started by their grandfather in 1929. The brothers eventually moved JCorp Incorporated into a multi million dollar industry through the importing of branded and licensed goods for retailers throughout North America.

It was with their intuitive mind and a keen eye on consumer trends that enabled Marvin and Jon to grasp an opportunity when it presented itself. That opportunity came in 2007 during Marvin’s business trip to California. It was there that he discovered a frozen yogurt store that left him with a tasty impression. A year later he discovered the only self serve Yeh! Yogurt and Café in Montreal, offering an assortment of frozen yogurt flavours and toppings.

Six months later the brothers became equal partners with the founders, Grace Yeh and Jean Daniel Nadeau, eventually taking over the business in 2008. The brothers opened four corporate stores in Montreal and began franchising their store concept in 2010.

A good eye and a gut feeling

“Because of our experience growing up in our clothing market we had to reinvent ourselves every season,” says Marvin. “We picked up an eye for new things that are happening in the market. That was an acquired taste, over many, many years.”

The brothers share that success is more than keeping a watchful eye on exciting trends. “It’s a gut feeling,” says Jon. “We believe in fate. If things come your way you have two options,” adds Marvin. “Either you run with it or you don’t. The good thing is when you run with it, you’ve made the right choice.”

The Yeh! Yogurt and Café concept

Yeh! Yogurt and Café offers customers the opportunity to create their own non-fat frozen yogurt creations. With a wide selection of flavours, sauces and at least 40 constantly changing toppings, customers always have options. Toppings include fruit, cereal, seeds and for the sweet tooth, chocolate.

Low in calories with active bacterial cultures, Yeh! Yogurt offers a healthy food choice that customers have come to appreciate. The self serve model also speeds up the process, explains Jon. “There are no long waits in line.” The added bonus is that customers can determine portion size, paying according to their creation’s weight.

All of Yeh! Yogurt and Café’s products are made on site daily with fresh milk and yogurt, a concept entirely different from their competitors. “We’re a more sophisticated frozen yogurt destination in our branding and our in-store experience,” says Jon. “We call ourselves, ‘the Starbucks of the yogurt business.’

“We have a three step process, a longer process, to make our yogurt versus the competition that usually has a one to two step process,” Jon continues. He also shares that Yeh! Yogurt and Café offers a variety of other specialty products including s’mores, crèpes, waffles, smoothies, teas and gourmet coffees with plans to expand its menu in the near future. “We’ll have a lot more products to bring folks in and to keep [them] coming in all day,” shares Marvin.

Yeh! Yogurt and Café also addresses the huge market that is lactose intolerant by offering two flavours of dairy free sorbet in every store. “We’re very entrepreneurial,” Jon continues. “We do things that raise us above the clutter.”

Expanding quickly

With its urban cool and signature pink store design, Yeh! Yogurt and Café is expanding quickly, with eight corporate stores and the rest as franchises. To date the team has over 40 locations open or signed from Toronto to Newfoundland, with plans for expansion out west as far as Vancouver. The company is also in upstate New York and Massachusetts with a deal in the works for San Diego. “We’re expanding quickly, but one store at a time,” shares Jon. “When I say that we have 40 locations, they’re not all open yet. We’re waiting to find the best locations we can.”

The brothers are actively promoting their franchise model, encouraging those franchisees with a passion for their product – those driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. They’re encouraging franchisees with a strong team work ethic to promote Yeh! Yogurt and Café’s plans for growth and continued success. “We have a lot of opportunity for people that want to work hard and want to get involved in a great company,” shares Marvin. “We have a great concept.”

Promoting the pink campaign

The Gurman twins’ business model is to “paint the country pink,” says Marvin. He relates that sports cars such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis are wrapped in the team’s signature pink colour and brought to different cities and franchise conventions to promote the business.

As for the brothers, they have pulled out all the stops when it comes to promotion. They’re also involved in the entertainment business, attracting both musicians and celebrities to their stores. “We just recently brought the next hottest girl band on the planet, called Fifth Harmony, to Montreal and they came to Yeh! Yogurt,” adds Marvin. He notes that they maintain strong relationships with record labels that want to promote Yeh! Yogurt’s growth. “We’re also in the fashion business. So all together it’s a great combination – fashion, music and Yeh! Yogurt.”

The Gurman twins affirm that their Yeh! Yogurt and Café enterprise is an accepted lifestyle, a healthy, fun experience for the whole family. And they will most assuredly be recognized for their own adage created from their entrepreneurial experience – “You go. You get.”

September 23, 2017, 3:51 PM EDT

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