Story and photos by SYDNEY BULL
Sam Webster, a University of Utah graduate in Information Systems, wasn’t planning on opening a frozen yogurt business the day of his graduation.
The idea of Ugurt was inspired by the lack of dessert joints around the U. Brothers Sam and Adam Webster wanted to celebrate Sam’s graduation with their family, but were unable to find a place that served desserts.
While driving past The Pie Pizzeria at the bottom of campus, the Webster brothers saw the old Utah Textbook Exchange building was vacant and available for a new lease. That moment, the two rookie business owners came up with the name, “UGURT.” The Websters didn’t want to open a franchise yogurt shop because they wanted to market their brand freely. Since the location is so close to the U, it offers a closer association with the university and the students.
“We can market directly to campus, with the fraternities and sororities,” Adam Webster said, while accompanied by his wife Paola. “This month and next month we’re going to be doing a lot of philanthropy nights. So they will be coming over here and 20 percent of what they purchase will be given straight to whatever cause they are working for at the time.”
Neither of the brothers had previous experience in running a business. In fact, Adam is a student at the U, working toward his masters in International Studies. Being new to the small-business world didn’t deter them from opening Ugurt in October 2013. The entire family pitched in to help get the business up and running.
The Websters work hard to create a great environment for their customers and employees alike. While providing flexible work hours and a solid payroll, they aim to hire students because they want to cater to all aspects of the college life. The Websters understand what it’s like to be a working college student, so providing a job that is located on campus is quite convenient.
Kassidy Samuels, an employee at Ugurt, agrees that it is a great business to be involved in.
“I love working for Ugurt. It’s so fun and I love that we’re super associated with the U,” she said. “I’m on the dance team, so I get to really see how they cater to athletics, the spirit squad and marketing and all that. They really try to support the U as much as possible and vice versa. It’s such a great atmosphere and that’s why I have been here since they opened.”
Most of Ugurt’s success originates from the owners’ passion to provide the best experience possible for their customers. Ugurt can easily cater to students’ needs because it is open until midnight and offers free Wi-Fi. This gives plenty of options for students, whether it is a place to host late-night study sessions, socialize with friends or satisfy those late-night munchies.
Compared to franchises, local businesses do not have that automatic public awareness of the new products, which can make starting a brand-new business really difficult. Marketing wise, the Websters believed it would be a good idea to incorporate as many local events into their business as possible, such as weddings, banquets and school and sporting events. Social media’s role in advertising and promoting has led to improved interaction with their customers and the University of Utah student body as well.
“We’ve worked (catered) at Crimson rally and Crimson Night,” Samuels said. “We have posters set up around campus all the time. We really try to keep a super open environment and make it feel like everyone’s welcome.”
The environment of Ugurt alone has brought in a lot of customers, but their new promotions continue to bring in new people every week. All thanks to the Websters’ new promotion of “Light the U.” This season, customers get buy-one-get-one-free on cups of frozen yogurt every time the Utes basketball and gymnastics teams win. It has benefitted Ugurt because it encourages customers to come in and buy their product even during the wintertime when frozen desserts aren’t as appealing.
“This last week there was a home game and a lot of people came over and took advantage of the buy-one-get-one-free promotion,” Adam Webster said. “Not to mention it has brought us a ton more business.”
Ugurt attracts its customers with a wide range of yogurt flavors, toppings and gourmet hot beverages. The frozen yogurt flavors rarely change, which is why cookies ‘n’ cream, raspberry/pomegranate, peanut butter and cake batter tend to be the most popular. With the variety of flavors and toppings, Ugurt gives customers freedom to choose. At 49 cents an ounce, chocolate addicts and fruit fanatics can fill their cup however they want.
The owners purchase their frozen yogurt and most of their toppings from U.S. Foods and their fresh fruit from local markets. The hot chocolate is bought locally from Stephen’s Gourmet Hot Cocoa. Their hot chocolate bar adds a nice twist to the Ugurt menu, and is a clever way to keep business steady during the winter.
The Webster family hopes to expand their company to other areas in the near future. Even without business degrees, Adam and Sam Webster are successfully running Ugurt and just took over management of the Hokulia Hawaiian Shaved Ice franchise in Utah.
“It’s basically the best shaved ice,” Paola Webster said. “They just have such a following because it’s so different; it’s like the thinnest, lightest shaved ice with ice cream in the middle. We were super fans way before we even knew it would be a possibility to acquire them. So Hokulia Hawaiian shaved ice will be another thing Ugurt, as a company, will work on this summer.”