By Susanna Alatalo, April 2013
Teenage siblings continue their father’s legacy by running the frozen yogurt business he founded in Helsinki. Their ideas are as fresh as their product.
Two enthusiastic kids rush into the tiny, turquoise-coloured café. Five-year-old Joel and his sister Elina have arrived for their weekly visit to Yobot, a frozen yogurt parlour in the Töölö neighbourhood of Helsinki. The chilly treat pours out and fills the cup as Joel turns the handle of the frozen yogurt machine. His dad needs to step in so he won’t take too much. “I’m having mine with chocolate and chocolate sauce,” declares Joel. “I’ll have candies on mine,” says Elina.
“Little kids just love to make their own portions of frozen yogurt and to keep on running back and forth between the weighing station and candy assortment table,” says Emma Beidler (16 at the time of writing), the co-owner of Yobot.
Emma and her brother Max, 14, are the legal owners of the frozen yogurt shop, which they inherited from their father, Tom Beidler, when he passed away in September 2012.
Like any other modern business, Yobot has a huge social media presence. A few months after Tom’s death, Yobot’s regular customers and fans reached out via Facebook. These Yobotians, as they started calling themselves, are ex-pats and Finns, friends and customers he had met since arriving in Finland from the US two years earlier.
Concerned about the future of their cosy meeting place, the Yobotians joined the Beidler family and residents of Töölö to organise brainstorming sessions about the future of the frozen yogurt café, which had temporarily closed down.
“It was fascinating to meet all these people in person, and heart-warming to realise how much people cared, says Jaana Beidler, Tom’s ex-wife and Emma and Max’s mother. We had to organise two separate sessions due to the amount of people willing to participate. I’ve never seen such an unconditional will to help.
“We were a bit doubtful of the future of the business after Tom died, but these people gave us the energy and the trust to actually do this,” she says, referring to the decision to keep the business going.
Emma was her father’s right-hand woman from the very beginning of Yobot’s history. She and her friend suggested the idea of a frozen yogurt, or “froyo,” shop as a joke at first, but in the hands of Tom Beidler, a former IT professional, it evolved into a successful business. It took a year of heavy paperwork before the frozen yogurt parlour finally opened in March 2012.
A sociable and active person, Tom formed a link between many expats in the capital area, and Yobot became a meeting place that gathered people together. “In a way, we keep Dad’s spirit alive here at Yobot,” Emma says.
Despite her young age, Emma seems very professional and shows good business sense. She honed her skills while doing an internship at the Brooklyn Café in downtown Helsinki. Due to legal restrictions and schoolwork, Emma works limited hours, during the evenings and weekends. Max helps out as a volunteer; relatives and friends volunteer as well.
Emma wants Yobot to be a happy place where customers feel at home. Her two keys to customer satisfaction are simple: smile and respect the customer. “You don’t just pay for the product, you pay for the service and the atmosphere, too,” she notes.
“Yobot has provided Emma with a new element in her life, one that she’s really good at and enjoys,” says Jaana.
The future of Yobot looks bright. Emma is full of new fresh ideas. During the winter, a “froyometer” shows customers their temperature-dependent discount: minus ten degrees Celsius means 10 percent off all frozen yogurt. On Easter weekend Yobot held an egg hunt to entertain its young customers.
Summer plans include frozen yogurt on wheels thanks to a special bicycle with a cart attached – if all the required paperwork is approved in time. The turquoise-coloured vehicle will eventually be visible around the city, selling frozen yogurt to people who need to cool down in the summer heat. A sidewalk terrace in front of the café and a pop-up froyo stand near Market Square are also on Yobot’s summer list, along with various events.
Emma dreams of expanding the business to the neighbourhood of Kallio, on the other side of town. “That has crossed my mind, but first we’re concentrating on the place we already have,” the young entrepreneur says.
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