I dropped by the original Yogurtland near Cal State Fullerton after our interview. While we loved the value, my original impression used to be that the formula was a little icy for my taste. However, this visit was different from what I remember. Sure, the pastel décor (European-inspired and designed by Phillip's wife, an art major) and self-serve dispensers were the same. But taste-wise, there was noticeable improvement. Even the toppings were fancier -- mango-popping boba, lychee-popping boba, and so forth.
Chang's dual beliefs in product quality and value are what Yogurtland runs on, but as he elaborates, "People can forgive the price, but they can't forgive the quality. Even when people pay very little, they still complain about the quality." Ain't that the truth? That reminds me, have you ever seen the back of the company's business cards? Each has five additional terms used to describe its attitude:
Humble: We are modest, respectful and never arrogant, despite our success. Our satisfaction comes from consistent performance and service.
Receptive: We strive for diversity and are open to different and better ways of thinking and doing.
Confident: We are certain we can achieve our goals; we rely on each other, our strategies and ourselves.
Wise: We aspire to do what is just and right; for our business, employees, guests, community and environment.
Dedicated: We are committed to success and work hard to achieve our goals.
Read our interview with Phillip Chang of Yogurtland, Part One.
And now on to Part Two . . .
When you're not at work, what are you doing?
I love music. I used to play bass and sing in a Korean gospel band. I also love to swim and golf.
Last song playing on your radio/smart phone/iPod:
I listen to a lot of gospel. Oftentimes, I listen to a pastor's sermon.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Korea and moved to California in my early 20s.
Hardest lesson you've learned:
Around 2004, after I started Boba Loca, I was very confident in the business. I thought I could just open anywhere. It was a big lesson for me. I lost so much money that year; I had to shut down many stores. I know the feeling of setting up a store and having to let it go. Until that point, my business experience was "Anything I do, I can do very well, and I can do better than anybody else." I was somewhat arrogant. That got me into big trouble.
Now, with any franchise, I never, ever want to make that store close down. I'm so concerned and careful about the location of a shop.
What's your favorite childhood memory?
In high school, our summer vacations were two months. I used to go backpacking alone into the mountains. It would take a whole day to get to the top of a mountain and another whole day to come down the other side. I would head south, along the ocean, for a week to two weeks at a time. I would bring a tent, sleeping bag and food. It was great life experience.
It was about nature and my own quiet time. It's very safe to walk anywhere at any time. I started at Seoul and went all around the country. I also brought my guitar and would sing for people in exchange for food.
What were you up to five years ago?
I was completing my first year of franchising Yogurtland.
Last book you read or movie watched:
Start-Up Nation, about Israel and its immigrant success story.
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Last thing you looked up/searched online:
I was just looking at something last night. It was MLS (Multiple Listing Service, not Major League Soccer) for a land search, trying to find an opportunity to build a house.
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
I used to be a computer programmer.