As kids, UConn alumni Dennis ’04 (BUS) and William Bok ’08 (CLAS) were self-described troublemakers. Today, they’re enjoying the sweet life as entrepreneurs and founders of FroyoWorld – Connecticut’s first self-serve frozen yogurt chain.
Since its launch in the summer of 2010, the chain has grown to 18 locations, including the recently opened FroyoWorld in Storrs Center, just off campus at 1 Dog Lane. The chain is expected to expand to 50 or more locations by the end of 2013, according to William, the younger of the two Bok brothers. In the past year, FroyoWorld has experienced a whopping 600 percent growth.
The Boks credit UConn – and specifically the Student Support Services program in which they both participated – with helping them achieve such success. SSS provides advising, academic support, and advocacy for first-generation, low-income, and/or underrepresented students at UConn.
In their youth, the Bok brothers were capable, but didn’t have much initiative, admits William. It was their responsible older sister, also a UConn alum, who convinced them to apply for the SSS program.
All SSS students take part in a six-week summer program just before their freshman year to help prepare them for university life and the rigors of college-level courses. Dennis went through the SSS summer program in 2000. His brother took part two years later.
The course was “almost like a boot camp,” says Dennis. “At first, it’s hard to be there knowing your friends are off at the beach,” adds William, “but it’s worth it.”
The summer program showed them what to expect at UConn, and helped them get some basic requirements completed, easing the workload while they were adjusting to life in college. “It helped us out tremendously,” says Dennis.
Both brothers graduated from UConn – Dennis from the School of Business with a degree in accounting and William from CLAS with a major in history. While Dennis is the one with a business-related degree, both brothers have business in their blood. They followed in the footsteps of their parents, who came from Korea and opened their own dry-cleaning establishment in Branford.
William got his initial taste of the frozen yogurt trade when he started a self-serve frozen yogurt lounge in San Francisco with his wife’s cousin. A few years later, he sold the business and moved back to Connecticut. In August 2010, he opened the first FroyoWorld in New Haven with his wife and brother. The chain has been expanding rapidly ever since.
FroyoWorld targets areas around college campuses, positioning its first store near Yale and others near Brown and UMass. As of now, most FroyoWorlds are located in New England and New York, but the chain also has two sites in Puerto Rico. In an effort to take the company international, the Boks are working on opening a store in London.
From the very beginning, they intended to bring FroyoWorld to UConn. The new Storrs Center provided the perfect opportunity. They are also scheduled to open a store near UConn’s planned new Hartford campus.
While frozen yogurt isn’t new, the self-serve aspect of their business is. Customers pay by the ounce and choose from a rotating menu of 12 unique flavors and dozens of toppings and “drippings” (sauces). The base flavor is the original award-winning Tart that William brought back from San Francisco. His wife and sister create new flavors, which are exclusive to FroyoWorld. (Dennis’ favorites are Strawberry Tart and Peanut Butter. William prefers Original Tart topped with Fruity Pebbles, strawberries, and mocha – a Japanese sweet rice cake.)
The Bok brothers aren’t just introducing new Froyo flavors to the world. They’re also creating much-needed jobs. Each FroyoWorld employs 10 to 15 people. The company’s core employees are mainly friends and family, says William. The manager of the New Haven store is a fellow alum of UConn and Student Support Services. And the manager of the Storrs FroyoWorld, Cec Amado, first met Dennis in the SSS summer program.
“Dennis was my first friend at UConn,” Amado says.
“We like to help UConn people,” says Dennis.
The frozen yogurt barons have come a long way since their undergraduate days. To today’s SSS students, Dennis says: “When you ask yourself, ‘Why am I learning this? I’ll never use it,’ think of it as the building blocks.”
William agrees: “All the things you learn and the people you meet will come into play later.”
That’s some pretty sweet advice.