When Paul Siderovski took a holiday with his family to Hawaii and was convinced by his wife to taste some double-Dutch chocolate-flavoured frozen yoghurt, he did not expect it to inspire a business venture.
However, earlier this year, Siderovski launched the US-based yoghurt chain Yogurtland in Australia, and now has 11 stores, with eight more set to open before Christmas 2013.
Between head office, management and store staff, the Australian operation now has around 400 employees, and Siderovski says this will increase with plans to open another 30 stores nationally in 2014.
Yogurtland launched in California in 2006, and has more than 200 locations across the US, Guam, Mexico and Venezuela. It reports that last year it served more than 49 million cups of yoghurt around the world.
Siderovski says bringing Yogurtland to Australia was all about passion not money. He contacted the US operators via Skype, and while they had no plans to bring the brand to Australia, he says they could see his dedication and gave him a chance.
It is not the only venture run by Siderovski. He is also the founder and managing director of SiDCOR Chartered Accountants. He splits his time between Newcastle, where SiDCOR is based, and the Sydney head office of Yogurtland, and travels around the country as new stores for Yogurtland are launched.
Siderovski says he drew on years of running an accounting business, and all the skills he had learned from working with other business owners in order to make the process as smooth as possible.
He gathered a board of advisors with different areas of expertise. He then set out to find locations for the business, but found it challenging to get local leasing agents to pay attention.
“We had to show we were not just another yoghurt provider, that we were in for the long term,” he says.
Initially, each store was slow to build, due to getting the equipment, fit outs and look right. Now he says the company has the expertise and facilities to roll out a store a week.
Currently, all stores are operated by Siderovski, but he intends to establish a franchise model in the future.
In head office, the HR, marketing, learning and development staff are key to its growth, he says, commenting that the rapid expansion could not have been achieved without the right people on hand.
“I offer the strategic direction, but the staff are the key ingredient,” he says.
“Some of the staff that started at the first Macarthur Square (Campbelltown) store are already becoming managers in the business.”
SiDCOR was named the BRW 20th Best Place to Work in 2013 and Siderovski says he is bringing the same ethos into Yogurtland. He looks to the structure of McDonald’s restaurants for inspiration when it comes to training staff.
“We call our team ‘Yogurtlanders’, we want to the employer’s company of choice.”
He says Yogurtland’s US operations invest heavily into research and development, with a head ‘flavouroligist’ ensuring around 65 yoghurt flavours are available at any one time. In Australia, the business can facilitate about 16 to 18 flavours in each store, with machines rotating from location to location so the flavours offered always change.
The self-serve model is also part of its strength, he says, with customers able to “rule the experience”. They can create their own dessert with different flavours, toppings and fruits.
“They are healthier than ice creams,” he claims, “There are sugar free, gluten free and sorbets.”
The journey so far may sound a breeze, but Siderovski says it has been “tough”. He says if it weren’t for his accountancy background it would have been even more challenging.
He advises anyone looking to bring an international business to Australia to get the right advice, have the funding ready, and to be passionate as it takes endless energy.
“I don’t sleep much, I am going 100 miles an hour.”
He thinks that Yogurtland could build to 200 stores across the country in the next five years.