Melissa Schulman is a Los Angeles, California-based entrepreneur bringing a much needed healthy overhaul to soft serve and frozen yogurt. With a background in the corporate workforce, she wasn’t the most likely candidate to enter the food business, but she had “an idea and a lot of passion” for a healthier version of traditional soft serve (which often is filled with chemicals). In 2015, her dream became a reality when she opened her first brick-and-mortar store Yoga-Urt, serving organic, dairy-free, vegan soft serve. Her made-from-scratch nut-based flavors have proven to be a big hit — and in 2019, she opened her second location in LA’s Echo Park. Even amidst the pandemic, her two locations have managed to stay open, offering sweet treat delivery right to your door.
Schulman’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
Yoga-urt is a new soft serve concept that offers a healthier version of soft serve and frozen yogurt made fresh daily. Our flavors are made from scratch, starting with hand squeezed almond milk with all organic and dairy-free ingredients and added probiotics. It’s all original, all natural, and all delicious! Plus we are eco-friendly with all compostable paper goods.
We offer over 25 nut-based handcrafted rotating flavors of organic, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free soft serve, including Chocolate Bliss, Salted Caramel Zen and Peanut Butter Prana, as well as a toppings bar with mostly organic and all vegan options, organic smoothies including healthy green and paleo options, kombucha floats, banana splits, shakes, pints to go, and more. And in an effort to reduce waste, our cookies for our ice cream sammies and our pie crust for our pie slices are made from the leftover almond pulp/flour from our soft serve.
For me, success is making people happy. Leaving the world a little better than you found it. And being surrounded by love from your family and friends.
My biggest success to date is actually getting Yoga-urt open. I had all odds stacked against me — no money, no restaurant experience, no product, just an idea and a lot of passion and persistence. The fact that I actually got the store open and it’s been successful enough to open a second store is amazing to me.
The biggest obstacle was financial. When the idea came to me, I had no money to move forward. After having no luck trying to get my family and friends to invest, I felt pretty hopeless. I spent over a year trying to get investors, and once again, no luck. So I realized the only way this was going to happen was if I got the money myself.
I went back to work in the corporate world and saved all the money I could. As soon as I had enough money for R&D of the product, I hired a team and we started that. And I kept saving until I had barely enough to try to get a loan to cover the rest. And then I held on to my full-time job (which was a blessing for so many reasons) during the first 3 years of Yoga-urt as it helped me keep us both afloat. But I’m not going to lie, doing both was not healthy and took a huge toll on me.
My mom is my greatest role model. She was always the hardest working, strongest woman I knew until Parkinson’s Disease took over her life 18 years ago. She is not perfect, nor am I, but family was always so important to my mom. Working hard was important. She is very smart and goal-oriented, and introduced me to my love of movies, too. She was very involved in helping me with my newsletters and marketing in the beginning of Yoga-urt but as the disease started to really take its toll, she faced so many challenges and it’s been very hard for all of us.