Eat Good, Do Good at Project: Yogurt

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If three years ago someone had told Audrianne Doucet she would be where she is right now, she would have laughed. As senior women’s and gender studies major at Texas A&M University, Doucet already had a full plate. Now her bowl is overflowing as owner of the newly opened Bryan frozen yogurt shop Project: Yogurt. Her business model includes donating 10 percent of profits to a rotating list of local charities.

Originally, Doucet wanted to study abroad, but her father only offered to pay for half of the trip. Brainstorming how to earn the other half of the needed funds and inspired by being raised by an entrepreneur father, she decided she wanted to open her own business.

If three years ago someone had told Audrianne Doucet she would be where she is right now, she would have laughed. As senior women’s and gender studies major at Texas A&M University, Doucet already had a full plate. Now her bowl is overflowing as owner of the newly opened Bryan frozen yogurt shop Project: Yogurt. Her business model includes donating 10 percent of profits to a rotating list of local charities.

Originally, Doucet wanted to study abroad, but her father only offered to pay for half of the trip. Brainstorming how to earn the other half of the needed funds and inspired by being raised by an entrepreneur father, she decided she wanted to open her own business. As an avid consumer of frozen yogurt, Doucet noticed a “substantial demand” for the product and created a plan in November of 2009 to open her own shop. Construction began in 2010 and Project: Yogurt officially opened on January 10.

Not only has Doucet opened and managed her own business at a young age while still attending college, she doesn’t even keep all of the hard-earned money. Each quarter, five local charities are selected to be “partners” and receive 10 percent of profits.Not only has Doucet opened and managed her own business at a young age while still attending college, she doesn’t even keep all of the hard-earned money. Each quarter, five local charities are selected to be “partners” and receive 10 percent of profits. From this operating model, “eat good, do good” was born.

On the last day of every quarter, Project: Yogurt hosts “Partners’ Day,” a weekend event when 100 percent of the profits go to the organizations. The first day ends the quarter “with a bang” and the previous partners are presented with their donation checks. The second day welcomes the new partners and brings awareness to their causes. T-shirts and gifts cards are given away as prizes.

As Project: Yogurt continues to gain market share, Doucet says, “The most rewarding part is to see partners get really excited.” At checkout there is a donation box where customers have the choice to donate additional money to the charities. “I had no idea if customers would donate or how much. I’ve seen people give $10 or $20 at a time, sometimes it’s just 6 cents.” It all helps.

The business has brought lessons with the rewards. “I really enjoy minor improvements, like when we found a new fun way to display the rainbow sprinkles, …” she remembers with a laugh. “We noticed the toppings bar typically seen in most yogurt shops was messy with interacting toppings; clean-up was needed after every customer.”

Knowing there had to be a more sanitary and simpler way, she began bouncing ideas back and forth with her father. They finally came up with the topping wall, which doubles as decoration with its colorful presentation.
Since Project: Yogurt’s launch, Doucet has realized how demanding owning a business can be. Some of her greatest challenges have been the learning curve of operation, figuring out a money-tracking system, and operating the machinery.

She also had to learn how to balance her time between the business and school. “It has been much harder than I initially anticipated,” she says. “I don’t sleep a lot; that’s the summary of it.” Thankfully, her professors have been very understanding about what she is working to accomplish. She also has interns from the business school working on projects for her and receives ample support from her friends and family, even if it’s just to bring her food while working a double shift. As the oldest of six girls, her two oldest sisters, also students at Texas A&M, help by working at Project: Yogurt for free. “I have a fantastic crew that has been with me since the beginning. Everyone is really enthusiastic, including my family.”

Doucet has big and creative plans for Project: Yogurt. In three to five years, she hopes to have (at the very least) a second location open. After a few locations have been opened, she hopes to franchise, but in a different way than most companies. Having been lucky enough to receive help from her father to fund her venture, she wants to give the same opportunity to others by establishing an internship program. Applicants would be given a loan to open a risk-free franchise. Essentially, if they succeed they pay Project: Yogurt back with interest; but if it fails, Project: Yogurt will take control of that franchise and the person can simply walk away.

As for her personal goals, Doucet wants to eventually pursue some kind of graduate education but isn’t certain what it will be. With time to grow and consider her options, she knows her passions will become more defined. “I live a day at a time. Learning as I go.”