Frozen Yogurt Flavors a Bold Venture
Corporate colleagues join forces to invest in franchise
Business partners come in many forms. Sometimes it’s a husband and wife, friends, or people who have worked together previously. For the new owners of the Orange Leaf frozen yogurt franchises in Omaha, it’s all the above. Mark and Shirley Covey, together with Babu and Neelima Inti, purchased four Orange Leaf locations—three in Omaha and one in Council Bluffs. Not only are they family friends, but Mark and Babu have a long work history as corporate colleagues.
Mark, a graduate of Creighton University, and Babu, who has a degree in mechanical engineering and worked in the manufacturing industry in India, met while working within the Information Technology group for Avaya in Omaha. Babu was a business analyst and Mark a software developer, and together they developed software programs for all of the company’s business systems. During their 11 years at Avaya, they often talked about one day going into business together.
"Even though you're diving into things you don't always know about, you have to be open to new things an can't be afraid to fail."
- Mark Covey
“We both have entrepreneurial spirits and all four of us bring a diverse set of skills,” Mark said. His wife Shirley has a business background in sales, and Babu’s wife Neelima is skilled in project management. Although they no longer work for the same company, both Mark and Babu intend to keep their current corporate positions. When considering business opportunities, they liked the advantages that an existing franchise offers. “We wanted to buy an existing business that was successfully growing,” Mark said. “We wanted to be involved but have it be a streamlined business where we could monitor progress, improve efficiencies, and have it run smoothly.”
When the franchise first came up for sale, Mark and Babu looked into it but felt the sale price was higher than they were prepared to pay. Six months later, it listed with The Firm at a lower price, and Mark and Babu decided to seriously explore the opportunity. “We had a good understanding of the business from when we had first looked at it,” Mark said. “Both our families liked the product, the locations were good, and it’s a market leader for yogurt chains.”
Babu added that they liked the sellers and felt they were selling for the right reasons. “When looking at a business, you look at the people, the product, and the processes,” he explained. “This franchise has good people who’ve been long-term employees, the product is very good, and the processes are all in place—all things that attracted us.” Despite those elements being in place, the purchase process was not without its challenges.
"This franchise has good people who've been long-term employees, the product is very good, and the processes are all in place - all things that attracted us."
- Babu Inti
“We’ve never purchased a business before, owned a franchise, or negotiated a lease, so we’ve had and continue to have a lot to learn,” Mark said. Purchasing a franchise within the food industry involves additional knowledge about food preparation and health codes. “Even though you’re diving into things you don’t always know about, you have to be open to new things and can’t be afraid to fail,” he added. The partners plan to spend the first six to twelve months working with employees and understanding the various aspects to the business.
Beyond that, much of their longer term goals revolve around creating new opportunities for the business. This includes developing the catering side of Orange Leaf for private events, participating in Taste of Omaha and other public events, and becoming active in local schools, churches, and other organizations. “We’ve both lived in Omaha for a long time and want to be engaged in and give back to the community,” Mark said. “Families spend a lot of time in our stores, including our own, so developing a vision that benefits all families is very exciting to us.”
The Firm Deal Review
Lender: First National Bank of Omaha, Jeff Ash
Loan Structure: SBA
Location: 4 in the Metro Area
Offer to Close: 5 months