South Charlotte

Entrepreneur's 'engine' ignites new business

Michelle Goldstein's swift path to business ownership started with a small inheritance from her grandparents when she was 18. She believed the money one day would help her own a business.

What she didn't know is that it would be so soon.

Goldstein, 24, co-owns the family business: Tasty Yo, a frozen yogurt shop with locations in Ballantyne and NoDa.

After graduating from Charlotte Latin in 2005, Goldstein attended Marymount University in Arlington, Va., where she majored in business and economics and envisioned herself working in the financial industry. During her senior year she started looking for a job, but the financial crisis of late 2008 changed her plans.

In February 2009, "I thought, 'I'm not going to get a job. I'm going to have to move back home with my parents,'" said Goldstein.

She developed the confidence to pursue her own business while working in college at Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe in Arlington under the tutelage of chef Wolfgang Büchler, whom she still communicates with on a regular basis.

The bakery caters to the White House and various embassies in the Washington, D.C., area, said Goldstein.

Büchler and his wife became Goldstein's family away from her Charlotte home. "He taught me to look at business from an owner's perspective," said Goldstein.

The idea of opening a frozen yogurt shop came to her because of a yogurt shop she frequented with college friends. She contacted the company to open a location in Charlotte, but they never responded, so she pursued it on her own, deciding to "do my own thing."

"I'm so glad that's the way it turned out," said Goldstein.

When her family came to Arlington to visit, she took them to the yogurt shop and presented them with a business plan over dinner.

"Let's wait until next summer," her father told her.

"By next summer, other people are going to enter the market," she argued at the time, an accurate prediction given the number of frozen yogurt shops that have popped up in the area.

Goldstein convinced her family to invest, tapped into her inheritance and was on her way.

The first Tasty Yo opened in NoDa in July 2009, two months after Goldstein graduated from college. The second location, in Ballantyne at the Village at Robinson Farm, opened in December 2009 - a location chosen because of its proximity to her parent's home in Providence Crossing.

Raphael Goldstein, a Realtor with Prudential Carolinas, said his daughter "is the engine behind Tasty Yo."

"I didn't really know what I was doing and I've made a lot of mistakes, but I learned so much," said Michelle Goldstein.

The formula for Tasty Yo is simple: yogurt plus three toppings from a selection of fruits and candies, with a drizzle of flavored syrup, for one price. Tasty Yo serves four flavors of yogurt - original tart, blueberry acai, peach mango and chocolate - alternating them on different days of the week. The four flavors are available every day by the pint to go, said Goldstein.

"We use real yogurt that's frozen ... the alternative is using a powder mixed with water and yogurt, which is very common," said Goldstein. "That's why other people can have so many flavors."

Goldstein uses local businesses as much as possible. She shops local farmers markets for the fruit toppings, displays artwork from local artists and plays music from Charlotte musicians in both locations. Tasty Yo uses Uncle Scott's root beer from Mooresville to make root beer floats, and a shop in Plaza Midwood prints the T-shirts that Goldstein tie-dyes.

The business is a family affair, with every member contributing and working in the shops. Goldstein's sister, Stephanie, 22, works full-time at a Charlotte marketing firm and spends her evenings and weekends at Tasty Yo. She also handles the marketing and charitable promotions for the shop. Stephanie recalls lying in bed with her sister brainstorming names for the business; it was Stephanie who came up with the name "Tasty Yo."

"I trust her a lot with this company and what she's doing with it," said Stephanie.

Goldstein's mother, Deborah, a Spanish teacher, is not surprised at her energetic daughter's success. "I remember she was always ready to go, even as a child," she said.

Deborah also believes the business has brought her family closer.

Raphael advised Michelle to "prepare for the worst and celebrate if you get the best." Her father's advice has encouraged her to persist in the face of adversity, said Goldstein.

Her biggest obstacle has been herself, she said, and learning to let go of the business that she has helped to build, a common problem for business owners.

"Tasty Yo has become who I am," she said.