The concept of a FROZEN YOGURT establishment in The Caribbean is relativity new, the concept of one on my tiny island of Dominica is pretty mind-blowing. I had the opportunity to speak with the strong Caribbean entrepreneur, who owns Swirls Frozen Yogurt Café, Dominica, Anya Lewis.
In recent years, frozen yogurt has become a popular alternative to ice cream due to its reputation for being healthier. Ice cream and frozen yogurt are both frozen treats made from dairy, but there is a significant difference that sets them apart. Frozen yogurt is not made with cream and does not have a fat requirement. Instead, it is made with cultured milk.
Where did the idea of Swirls first come from?
“There is always a need or desire that one has (especially coming from a background of banking which I did for so many years) to move on and experience new adventures and opportunities.
The idea of Swirls was just an idea; it took us some time to come up with a name because we wanted to come up with a name that created a visual in someone’s mind as to what exactly the product was about.
The name Swirls comes from the swirl that the frozen yogurt makes when it dispenses from the machine. So it tied in very nicely.”
Swirls is a collaboration between Mrs. Lewis and her husband which she says creates “a strong network”.
Of course, I wanted to know why frozen yogurt?
“There are so many reasons as to why frozen yogurt, frozen yogurt is on the up and up and is really a modern day trend which has revolutionized the way people think about frozen yogurt. It looks and tastes just like ice cream but is a much healthier alternative.
In addition to the health aspect of it, which is what really makes it stand apart from ice cream, one can certainly feel that they are eating a world class product, which is largely popular in North America and Europe, and is now available to Dominica. So by that fact, we do feel very proud to be the first pioneers of Frozen Yogurt right here in Dominica.
The product is available in a multitude of flavors which really isn’t the the same for ice cream. My suppliers alone carries over 100 flavors and we at Swirls are up to about 40 flavors, which we change out every week to create an interesting element of expecting something new each time you visit Swirls”
Frozen yogurt is a relatively new concept in Dominica so I inquired about this niche market.
“We are always and will always be about taking on ventures that are different and set apart from the norm, we take pride in setting the standard very high in terms of the setup, and the type of equipment we invested into so our customers know that when they step into Swirls they are experiencing a product and a business which we do hope they are appreciative of the deep level of thought which into putting it together.
Frozen yogurt is liked by everyone. There isn’t really any special group of person who likes froyo. It caters to all kinds, ages, and tastes. From the conservative and simplistic to the wild and adventures taste buds.
Fun Fact: yogurt is full of healthy probiotics that support the immune and digestive systems.
Was it a long process to establish a color theme?
“Yes and no. Branding is something that I was never really directly involved with in the past, so there was certainly ample time spent in building every aspect of it and putting it together precisely right. We feel it’s important over time that customers can develop an appreciation in learning that everything you present in terms of – servicing, prices, etc is developed around brand building and creating an identity for your product, which I believe is key to any successful business.”
Although Swirls is a collaboration between Mrs. Lewis and her husband, she is the primary face of the business, and when asked about any challenges she faced as a female entrepreneur making her mark she stated.
“To be honest everything worth investing time and resources into` can sometimes be a bit of a long process, most times we want things to happen fast and especially in business where there is value placed on time, it makes it even more challenging. So in some instances, we found that the time management of what we needed to execute, and when we needed it to be done, took a bit longer than we would have liked. It’s at these times that one must recognize that anything worth doing well takes time and effort.”
As to the reaction of family and friends
when she began her business she says:
“My family in particular is a very supportive one, the product and entire concept was also new to them so it took a lot of explaining showing pictures, diagrams and illustrations and saying this is something I really want to pursue. Over all I am dedicated and passionate about things which are important to me.
Giving it my all is second nature and going into the uncharted waters of this relatively new industry actually felt a bit risky, as Frozen Yogurt establishments in the Caribbean are limited and added with our small population I knew early on it would present some challenges.
To combat these very real challenges it was apparent early on to understand that the approach had to be different and certainly innovative especially as we are not the traditional ice cream parlor set up. Every day, it is a learning process for someone who comes into the cafe and every day we educate our customers about frozen yogurt, especially our self-service concept.
As to her advice to other entrepreneurs?
“I would just say be creative in whatever you do, do something that is different and set a standard to what you are doing. There are resources available with avenues and agencies set up to provide information and gateways into small business development.
Pursue your passion, don’t give up and above all trust in God to guide you through every step of the way. Stick with it as sometimes it can be a difficult process, but fortunately one that we can learn from, paving the footpath to true success.
At the end of the day when looking back it’s clear to see that all you have accomplished stems really from all the efforts and determination which with careful nurturing eventually materializes into something pretty spectacular and knowing that you did it all on your own makes the experience even more rewarding.”
Fun fact: One cup of regular vanilla ice cream contains 275 calories, 5 grams of protein, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of fat and 9 grams of saturated fat. One cup of regular vanilla frozen yogurt contains 221 calories, 5 grams of protein, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fat and 4 grams of saturated fat.
Anya says, “To be honest I wish more people would recognize the healthy aspect of frozen yogurt. There are so many interesting facts about the product to learn about. Some of which are, it is low fat, low calorie, gluetin free, contains pro-active cultures, which when forms part of a healthy diet can boost the immune system and support food digestion. We depend wildly on our staff who are well trained to explain these very important healthy aspects of this amazing product.
Most people especially the kids enjoy indulging in our toppings bar, where they pile on all the yummy candies and gummies etc, truly making it a unique experience.”
When I asked her what she wished she knew when she started she says
“Organization, documentation, record keeping selecting the right staff, patience and the willingness to let the process happen are key. It takes time to develop and build especially in an era where we want things as instant gratification. For small businesses, it takes time to develop it takes time to build and it takes time for people to get it.
Creativity always prevails for small businesses.”
Anya says she still considers it a learning experience every day and constantly researches about her field.
In regards to her public figure she says, “I’ve always been a people’s person, dealing with the public is something I did for practically most of my banking career so I’ve always had a good rapport with people. Making people feel at ease and comfortable has always felt natural to me, and so that same level of interaction remains prevalent throughout the customer experience at Swirls. In particular we make strong efforts in ensuring that our staff display that same level of professionalism and hold a true appreciation for the importance of good customer service. ”
Swirls will be launching its second location at the Dominica State College Campus next week which I will be featuring!! Stay Tuned!!