July 14, 2024


The business lovers

How a new 27-year-old CEO plans to revive fro-yo craze at 16 Handles

How a new 27-year-old CEO plans to revive fro-yo craze at 16 Handles

If a dim haired person is piling a mound of chocolate chips and coconut flakes atop your Chocolicious fro-yo at the 16 Handles in Instances Square, he may possibly just be the CEO of the entire chain.

His name is Neil Hershman, the freshly appointed 27-year-aged CEO of 16 Handles. And rolling up his sleeves to function the weekend shift at the brand’s flagship takes place to be one particular of his preferred parts of the job. He tells Fortune that all 16 taste solutions can be frustrating for shoppers the entertaining section, he states, is outlining that you can get all of them. 

“They’ll arrive again with this mound of fro-yo, and you didn’t comprehend someone could stack cookie dough that very well on top of the cup ahead of,” he states. “And but, they’ve managed to do it. It usually will make me definitely happy due to the fact then you will observe them sit outside…and they’ll just take pictures with their fro-yo in Occasions Square.”

It’s a second Hershman desires consumers to appreciate not just in New York Metropolis, exactly where 16 Handles is based, but across the country—and possibly, one particular working day, internationally. Correct now, he’s focused on increasing the franchise throughout the east coastline with plans to increase retailers in Florida and Boston whilst also seeking at marketplaces in California.

It is unquestionably ambitious to check out to transfer 16 Handles across the place, but it is in line with Hershman’s fashion. In his teens, he became a master scuba diver and a experienced pilot. And even while he’s only 27, he has many years of entrepreneurship below his belt, dating again to when he offered parts of gum to relatives users as a baby. He remaining his write-up-faculty hedge fund job following his Kickstarter campaign for refrigerated coasters raised $150,000 within 20 days. Hershman started investing in 16 Handles in 2019, getting to be CEO of the enterprise this previous August. 

Setting up out a fro-yo empire will not be an simple endeavor. The very first 16 Handles opened in the East Village in 2008, with nine immediate competition in just a a few-block radius, Solomon Choi, founder and then CEO, explained to Refinery29. It was the onset of the 2010s fro-yo boom—“a time people ended up concentrated on far better-for-you, nonetheless tasty, ice cream choices,” Choi stated, including that the novelty of self-provide and personalization ended up also attractive factors.

The brand name experienced 40 storefronts throughout peak fro-yo times, dropping to 30 by 2022, Refinery29 claimed. It mirrored the increase and fall of fro-yo the industry’s earnings climbed at an yearly charge of 22.7% from 2009 to 2014, earning $1.8 billion, for every an IBISWorld report. But the marketplace size of fro-yo suppliers have been declining given that 2014, hitting a small in 2020.

Hershman may well have a several advantages to staging 16 Handles’ comeback, even though. For a single, the fro-yo sector is projected to improve from $1.69 billion in 2021 to $2.14 billion in 2021, many thanks to the upswing in wellbeing-conscious customers during the pandemic and new ranges of fro-yo flavors. And 16 Handles’ best retailer presently raked in $1,2 million in revenue previous calendar year. Hershman has also enlisted the assist of minority trader and Youtube prankster Danny Duncan as Main Imaginative Officer to aid get fro-yo in the mouths of a larger viewers: Gen Z. Thinking about their—and other generations’—desire for nostalgia all through troubling financial occasions, Hershman just might be profitable in reviving the fro-yo trend. 

The increase of the dessert king

Getting lived in New York Metropolis for a few yrs, Hershman suggests he was a regular at 16 Handles’ East Village site. It became his initially considered when he seemed to get concerned in the meals sector, which had usually fascinated him. 

It was evident to him that, regardless of its loyal buyers, no one was definitely investing in 16 Handles. “I just observed so significantly opportunity to clear it up and make it a much better consumer knowledge,” he states, introducing that he desired to be part of a escalating model. “It was just the completely wrong management at the time.” 

He attained out to 16 Handles’ administration 3 several years ago, and with each other, they devised a plan for Hershman to just take around some of the corporate-owned shops. He says he invested $125,000 to come to be a franchisor in his initial locale—Murray Hill. With a Tiny Business Administration loan to fund the relaxation of the bills, he took the profits from 1 keep to his next acquisition. 

A person shop turned into 3, and then Hershman constructed two retailers. When the pandemic hit, sending NYC’s serious estate sector to file-minimal costs, he took edge of much less expensive rents to double down on the model and open the Periods Sq. flagship in early 2021. Through this time, he began using about the New York Metropolis dessert scene, opening two Captain Cookie retailers and three Dippin’ Dots stores. 

With nearly a dozen dessert retailers completely beneath his supervision, Hershman was prepared to just take in excess of as 16 Handles CEO a yr later. 

He felt that not doing so would be a missed probability. “I could make all these variations, make this much better, and, in the method, transform the company into a substantially much more beneficial corporation,” he says. “But usually, I’m going to be type of sitting on this basket of eggs, and seeing them never hatch.”

A facelift, social approach, and partnerships galore

What Hershman 1st envisioned to be “some modest very simple thing” has turned into a greater passion job. 

He’s not nervous about a faithful customer base: “We have the mystery sauce by now,” he states, introducing that he’s extra centered on acquiring a method for expanding the brand’s prospects and physical location. That starts with his partnership with Duncan, who is overseeing the overall manufacturer vision to engage diverse demographics and take a look at out marketing strategies. With 6.8 million followers on his YouTube channel, Duncan can reel in a young, male audience—a demographic that Hershman is on the lookout to speak to.

Hershman says they are performing on the early phases of a new social approach to attraction to Gen Z, declining to comment further more on details but promising that it would assistance switch 16 Handles into “a definitely huge model.”  

Even so, Hershman acknowledges that the brand’s supreme good results is not just about having a very good social media presence. “It’s also really about setting up the correct destinations at the right time and obtaining comfy destinations for people today that truly feel safe and open up and welcoming and offer great solution,” he claims, incorporating that outlets will be acquiring a facelift before long. Building a lot more suppliers will “slowly create that hype train again up.” He’s also emphasizing new partnerships with brands like Oatly, an different dairy product or service, that appeal to the health and fitness-conscious.

But 16 Handles may well even get a more natural raise many thanks to the increase of nostalgia for the duration of the pandemic, which tugs at the heartstrings for the duration of times of uncertainty or economic instability, especially amongst more youthful generations. The fro-yo pattern of the 2010s next the Great Economic downturn harkened back to the fad from the 1980s. In a write-up-pandemic entire world with a looming economic downturn, fro-yo could beckon again to easier moments. 

Hershman endorses that young entrepreneurs at comparable crossroads continue to keep the religion. “It’s cliche, but just consider the jump, choose the hazard. And by no means seriously give up.” He points to his journey, describing there had been lots of points wherever it appeared not possible to near or get the funding and lots of sleepless nights. 

“If you are not ready to die on your hill, occasionally you are not gonna get nearly anything done,” he claims.