Former University of Oklahoma football player Reese Travis is the CEO of Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt. Based in Oklahoma City, the successful Orange Leaf has opened more than 80 shops over the last two years. Frozen yogurt fans can find Orange Leaf across the country, and soon they’ll be able to get their frozen yogurt fix in Australia, too.
Oklahoma Magazine: You’re turning frozen yogurt into cash, but you’ve proven yourself as an entrepreneur; you could probably be turning other things into cash. Why frozen yogurt?
Reese Travis: When we began our involvement with Orange Leaf, we were just a franchisee. We thought, hey, let’s do a few of these stores. The model is easy to reproduce. It’s a high-quality product. It’s very profitable. And it’s a fun, family experience. When we were still at the store level, we thought, “Let’s take this small chain, put our business practices to use and capture the momentum of the yogurt industry.”
We thought we had momentum when we started, but our momentum now is incredible.
Yogurt Capital of the World?
What is it, 1985 again? Frozen yogurt is everywhere these days, and Oklahoma companies are banking on the trend. In addition to Orange Leaf, Tulsa-based FreshBerry now operates more than 30 franchises in eight U.S. states, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Broken Arrow-based CherryBerry is rapidly expanding its franchisee base to dozens of locations in 20 states.
OM: I’ll be hunting down some Orange Leaf tonight. What flavor am I having?
RT: I’m on this big kick right now. I used to do three flavors. Always chocolate, peanut butter and then I’d do one of the decadent flavors like wedding cake, birthday cake, cookies and cream or cheesecake. And I’d go for a hodgepodge of toppings. Now I get a tart flavor and I top it with granola and cocoa pebbles.
OM: That’s good. It’s good to experiment.
RT: It’s fun to watch our Facebook page. People will say, “I thought that was my favorite but you guys came out with a new flavor and now that’s my favorite.”
People like to mix it up. Our customers have a lot of fun with that.
OM: You’re even expanding into the Land Down Under. You’re worldwide. How’s that feel?
RT: There’s nothing like Orange Leaf over there. We’re getting a lot of interest. People are lined up down the road wanting to try it. It should be pretty exciting to see what happens in Australia. Obviously, we won’t have a problem with the language barrier, and that makes it easy, as well.
OM: Why will Orange Leaf still be serving up the good stuff in 50 years?
RT: Our franchisees. At the end of the day, what makes Orange Leaf successful is our franchisees. When they open a store in their market and they get plugged into their communities, it works. They’re marketing to their communities. That’s really what makes Orange Leaf so successful. We’re really a community shop. That’s what’s going to keep us going. And, of course, we have the best frozen yogurt on the market.
OM: You had a great career as a football player at OU. I’ve heard that you lean on your experiences there for ideas and philosophies that you apply to your business.
RT: It’s very true. A lot of what I’ve learned is stuff I learned from playing football. I’ve had a lot of great coaches in my life that were great leaders that led by example. I played with a lot of teammates that I learned lessons from on a daily basis. My athletic career is really the foundation for what I do today, whether I’m at work or with my family. In athletics, philosophies are simple and a lot of them are based on having a good work ethic, discipline and dedication. I use all my sayings from those days around the office all the time. I’m sure my people get tired of hearing them but I’ve got a great group of team members up here. It is like having a football team. It’s like the locker room, where everybody is focused on the same goal and working hard. That’s the atmosphere I like to have here at work.