Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kiwi Froyo Preceptorial- A Sweet Talk and Sweet Treat

There is nothing like a delicious cup of frozen yogurt to brighten up my day. It is the perfect treat for any time of day in any type of weather (yes, I LOVE ice cream/froyo in cold weather!). I particularly enjoy the freedom to choose my own flavors and toppings and make a different creation every time I get a cup. I come from the West Coast where the craze originated, so I’m definitely a froyo connoisseur. I was surprised to find out that the dining halls didn’t have soft-serve ice cream machines (rather, the hard “scoopable” kind), so I was even happier to discover Kiwi while exploring campus one day. My usual cup is filled with their creamy cookies n’ cream, milk chocolate, and peanut butter froyo, topped with pleasantly chewy mochi and refreshing fruit. When I first found out about the Kiwi Frozen Yogurt preceptorial, I jumped at the chance to sign up. In addition to hearing the story behind Kiwi, the talk would conclude with discounted froyo at the Kiwi on 36th and Chestnut. The sweet talk and sweet treat made this preceptorial a sweet deal—I couldn’t wait!

For Ryan and Matt Mealey, the sister-and-brother duo that own Kiwi, entrepreneurship has always been in the family. Their grandfather started a retail furniture company in northeast Philadelphia more than 40 years ago, wanting to offer customers a wide selection of affordable furnishings with the novel concept of same-day delivery. Today, Mealey’s Furniture has five locations in Philadelphia and New Jersey and runs their business with customers as their number one priority. Working at the store helped Ryan and Matt understand how to become successful: “constantly evolve your business model; have steadfast determination, drive, and faith; and ultimately be happy at the end of the day.”

Nowadays, their lives revolve around frozen yogurt. They first realized the opportunities of a frozen yogurt shop when they visited their uncle in California in December 2008, a time when the ice cream alternative was becoming wildly popular. While they initially considered opening a franchise, they wanted a greater challenge; as Matt explained, they “wanted to start from scratch and have the chance to compete with national brands.” Whether they were choosing the location of their first store or negotiating prices for frozen yogurt ingredients, Ryan and Matt experienced many triumphs and hardships in the process. The hardest part? “Choosing the name!” Matt said, “At one point, there were at least fifty potential names.” Ryan later explained that they settled on Kiwi because it was “catchy and short.” Additionally, kiwis are one of the most nutrient-dense fruits, a fact that aligns with the business’ promotion of healthy eating and froyo as a nutritious dessert choice and alternative to ice cream.

It was a long road, but Ryan and Matt finally opened their first store on June 19, 2009, at their Cherry Hill location. Business boomed after their grand opening; Kiwi now operates five locations and plans to open two more in the next year. What constantly drives them is their goal of “creating a unique experience that is fresh, flavorful, and fun for guests while always maintaining a high level of quality customer service.” They are dedicated to making an experience at Kiwi the highlight of the customer’s day; this devotion to their public certainly has customers constantly coming back for more. Ryan fondly recalls overhearing a child at Kiwi’s Collegeville location say, “Mommy, can we please live at Kiwi?”

Kiwi is not just a job to Ryan and Matt—it is a lifestyle. “I go to sleep thinking about Kiwi and wake up thinking about Kiwi,” Matt commented. While they inevitably have to make sacrifices, both Ryan and Matt agree that the experience has been completely rewarding and worth it every step of the way. Matt sums it up the best: “When you open your own business, it’s a greater feeling than anything else. I never imagined that I would one day see people walking around my college campus [at Penn State] carrying cups with the logo of our business. It is absolutely invigorating to start from nothing and create something that countless people enjoy.”

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