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|Archives - November 2009|
|Wednesday, October 21, 2009|
John Hanna visits the YoCream International yogurt shop on Cascades Parkway on weekends to get a cup of Original Tart, banter with the manager, introduce himself to customers as YoCream’s CEO and ask if they’re having a good time. The 69-year-old self-identified “Portland boy” is as delighted by his customers as they are by his yogurt; he marvels that jocks and military servicemen line up for the stuff along with high school girls and moms on the way back from the gym. “When we first started this frozen yogurt thing, the slogan was ‘real men don’t eat yogurt,’” he says. “Now you go into our YoCream showroom here and there are men of all ages! The guys are enjoying it!”
In the yogurt shop, Hanna is buoyant and gregarious; in the conference room, he’s deliberate and prone to long pauses. He’s an accountant by training; YoCream was a “side investment” that took over his life in 1976 after the company's first yogurt shop in Seattle broke even in five weeks. The frozen yogurt craze that inspired Hanna and his two brothers to found YoCream inspired competitors, but most went bankrupt or shifted their attention to other products after the trend died. Hanna stuck with frozen yogurt — true frozen yogurt, which has live cultures of beneficial bacteria called probiotics — and pushed for more flavors. When cheerfully decorated fro-yo shops boomed again in the 2000s, YoCream was the only manufacturer ready to respond to the sudden demand, he says.
YoCream is now a $42 million company with clients as large as Sysco, Costco and Jack in the Box. It just completed a $4 million expansion — on the heels of a $7.5 million expansion completed in 2007 — that doubled capacity at its plant in Portland. Hanna expects the interest in frozen yogurt to keep building as more people learn about it, and YoCream is already considering a second plant on the East Coast. Demand is rising internationally, too; Hanna went to Japan last month to discuss the Japanese and Chinese markets with a prospective distributor. YoCream, which is traded on the Pink Sheets, just posted its 13th consecutive quarter of sales growth in August.
The 32-year-old company had its awkward growth stages: an early transition from franchisor to manufacturer, an IPO in 1987, delisting after Sarbanes-Oxley in 2006, and diversification into frozen beverages after a year-long internal debate. But it’s flourished rapidly with the yogurt resurgence. “We’re responding to this growth without really a hiccup,” Hanna says, referring to the trusted management team he consults on every matter, an echo of the days when he and his brothers ruled the company by consensus.
Outside advisers and the board of directors were leery of the new structure. “They said, ‘That can’t work, you need a pyramid, blah blah blah,’” Hanna says. But the structure proved effective and refreshing. “The right team was on the bus,” he says. The six senior managers have non-hierarchical titles, roughly the same compensation, and get equal bonuses based on communal goals. The sales department also adopted communal bonuses.
The company is so democratic that Hanna can’t remember who had the idea for its latest innovation, High Culture Frozen Yogurt. Released in June, it contains a strain of bacteria proven to aid digestion. High Culture has 1 billion Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM cultures per serving, 100 times what is needed to earn the Live & Active Cultures seal from the National Yogurt Association. Hanna is banking on the increasing public awareness of probiotics, which pop up more and more in his conversations with customers in yogurt shops.
To Hanna, High Culture Frozen Yogurt is a smart investment and a social good: Yogurt is healthy, yogurt shops are happy places and all this is profitable. He prefers Original Tart, no toppings, because it reminds him of the yogurt his mom cooked on the stove when he was a kid. He has no plans to retire. “I’m having fun,” he says. “My health is good. I eat a lot of yogurt.”
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
The New Yorker recently published a sharply worded critique of “disruptive innovation,” one of the most widely cited theories in the business world today. The article raises questions about the descriptive value of disruption and innovation — whether the terms are mere buzzwords or actually explain today's extraordinarily complex and fast changing business environment.
Update: We caught up with Portland's Thomas Thurston, who shared his data driven take on the disruption controversy.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
BY ERIC FRUTS | OB BLOGGER
Last year, the housing market in Oregon—and the U.S. as a whole—was blasting off. The Case-Shiller index of home prices ended the year 13% higher than at the beginning of the year. But, was last year a blip, or a trend?
Friday, May 30, 2014
BY DEBRA RINGOLD | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
Since 1970 the performance of our public education system has steadily deteriorated.
Monday, July 14, 2014
BY TERRY "STARBUCKER" ST. MARIE
I really didn’t know that much about angel investing, but I did know a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
BY TED AUSTIN & MIKE BAELE | GUEST CONTRIBUTORS
The Office of Economic Analysis announced that Oregon is currently enjoying the strongest job growth since 2006. While this resurgence has been welcome, the lingering effects of the 2008 “Great Recession” continues to affect Oregon businesses, especially with regard to estate planning and business succession.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
BY ANDREA DURBIN | OB GUEST BLOGGER
Last week, the Obama administration took an important and welcomed step in the effort to protect the health and well-being of all Oregonians by limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Oregon Business magazine won two silver awards for excellence in writing in the National American Society of Business Publication Editors Western region competition.
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Forest Grove sees growth in the burgeoning food and beverage scene.
Lane Powell Shareholder Susan K. Eggum has been elected as vice chair of programs and projects for the International Association of Defense Counsel’s (IADC’s) Employment Law Committee.
Geffen Mesher is saddened to announce the passing of long-time shareholder, Tom “Mike” Anderson, who died on July 10, 2014, from liver disease diagnosed after recent heart surgery. He was 55 years old.
Fifteen Lane Powell attorneys have been named 2014 “Oregon Super Lawyers,” and another five attorneys have been named as “Oregon Rising Stars” by Super Lawyers magazine.