Ann Nguyen: A Frozen Fairytale
Ann Nguyen in her frozen yogurt shop/ Photo by Lisa Twenter
You may think the sweetest thing in Sugar Berry is the frozen yogurt or the dozens of delicious toppings, but there is one thing sweeter: the bubbly and infectious personality of Ann Nguyen, owner of Sugar Berry.
The petite and lively Nguyen went to college for radiology with the intention of entering a field where she felt she could find a stable job. But she admits she knew all along it wasn’t her first love. Business ran in her blood.
“My first love is business. I am not so keen on the nine to five, I just knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t always know what it would be but I knew owning my own business is what I wanted. My first business is a nail salon in Charlotte. Of course, being in that business for so long I got a little antsy and got bored. It wasn’t enough. I wanted more and I got it, but this didn’t just happen over night,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen’s dream of owning another business was more than five years in the making. She toyed around with a lot of ideas but it was a vacation to California that lead her to consider frozen yogurt.
“I went on vacation five years ago to California and frozen yogurt was huge there! And I thought to myself, ‘This is what I want, this is my next step.’ I was wowed. It was so amazing. I went home and told my husband,” said Nguyen. “We had to consider that California is different from Michigan, not to mention it is cold six months out of the year here. We took a lot of time to think about it. Almost four years, going back and forth because it’s a big investment.”
But when Nguyen knew it was time to take the leap of faith, she jumped in with both feet and learned everything there was to know about frozen yogurt.
“I just woke up one day (and) I said ‘I’m going to do it!’ I just wanted it really bad,” said Nguyen. “After that, I did a lot of research. I read anything I could get my hands on. We had to look at locations and think about design and consider the opening. We found this location first (Frandor) and just kept coming back to it. It was the first step to making this real.”
Opening Sugar Berry required a lot of time and dedication. Although a bit out of her comfort zone, opening a second business gave her the opportunity to learn new skills.
Nguyen slices up toppings at Sugar Berry/ Photo by Lisa Twenter
“One of the hardest things I had to do was learn everything from scratch. I didn’t know anything about frozen yogurt. I had to learn to make it and learn about flavors. There were a lot of trial and errors, but I had an image my head and just kept pushing toward it. The biggest challenge was getting things together to build to the finish and the open,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen learned a lot of new things when opening her second business, but she admits some things remain the same no matter what business you’re in and that is doing everything you can to make your customers happy.
Since the first Sugar Berry location (Frandor) opened in November of 2010 it has gained a loyal following of fans that has helped Nguyen expand her company from one location to three. Her customers also help her make important decisions like, yogurt flavors.
“My customers are awesome. Without them there is no Sugar Berry. They are so loyal and they make me happy. They remind me that I have done something great with my life,” said Nguyen. “My customers love (to) come in and create new combinations, actually a lot of my flavors come from my customers. They’ll come in and say, ‘have you heard of this or try this.’ Actually, my Taro flavor came from a customer, it was different but it turned out phenomenal.”
But it’s not just her die-hard customers Nguyen has to thank, her husband, family and staff have been an integral part of making Sugar Berry a reality.
“I have to thank my husband, Andy, for being there when I need him and for standing by me. I have to thank him for all the things he does that nobody sees. My family has been a huge part in this too. My in-laws, my children and my family all supported me. My manager, Letty Sanchez has been with me from day one, I have to thank her. She does an absolutely amazing job. Of course, I have to thank my partner Sarah Pham, she runs the Sugar Berry on the west side and in Okemos, she is always there for me. And lastly, I have to give a huge thank you to my employees. They really keep me in order and I know when I am not here I don’t have to worry. I have all these wonderful people in my life, it is truly a blessing,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen is thankful for her success, but it didn’t come without sacrifice. She admits during the process of opening the store she had very little time with her family. She knowingly says it was hard to be apart from them so often, but in the long run she hopes her kids will see it was worth it.
“It was an exciting time but also really hard. I barely saw my family, I was at the store before they woke up and didn’t get home until after they went to bed. I know they love coming here now, and they may not quite get that we own this, but I hope when they look back when they’re older they will understand,” said Nguyen.
Despite all the ups and downs that come along with owning a business, Nguyen isn’t ready to slow down just yet. She’s got big plans for Sugar Berry and a few exciting additions on the horizon.
Nguyen at the toppings bar in Sugar Berry/ Photo by Lisa Twenter
“As for what’s next for Sugar Berry, well, that a secret,” Nguyen said with a laugh. “We have a new product in the works that the Lansing area hasn’t seen yet. We’ve been working really hard on it, it supports our healthy mission. By summer we’ll have it up and running and hopefully have the glitches out of the way.”
It’s clear as Nguyen talks that she loves what she does and has a passion for her company. She is driven and motivated and expresses her joy with everything she does. She thrives on success as a businesswoman, but she doesn’t measure it in terms of money or growth, what is most important to Nguyen is happiness.
“Success to me is, well, happiness,” said Nguyen. “I could go into detail and give you all the little pieces that make that up, but at the end of the day I love what I do and my staff, my family and I are happy.”
CHECK OUT SUGAR BERRY AT ANY OF
THEIR THREE CONVENIENT LOCATIONS:
- 3201 E. Grand River Ave.Lansing, Michigan 48912
- 4901 Okemos Road, Okemos, MI 48864
- 5451 W Saginaw Hwy., #G Lansing, 48917
Tags: business, Cover Story, frozen yogurt, Sugar Berry
Ami Iceman-Hauter is the Brand Manager at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. Iceman is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelors degree in creative advertising.