The Dream Team
At age 24, Kirk Goza and Wes Bergmann are definitive businessmen of Generation Y--models of a new era of confidence and energy blossoming in Leawood and around the nation as children of baby boomers graduate into the workforce creating their own opportunities in a market of uncertainty.
But Goza and Bergmann co-own and operate south Johnson County's newest frozen yogurt establishment, Mochi-Yo, the Pinkberry of Leawood.
"I would think that this area is a little bit recession-proof, especially when it comes to small-ticket items," says Goza, a Columbia University graduate. "It's a little bit of a disadvantage to be inexperienced, but in some ways, we're more in touch with what's new and cool."
What's "new and cool" is Asian-style frozen yogurt, noted for its tart flavor, endless fresh fruit toppings and guilt-free decadence. In recent American pop culture, the fat-free concoction has developed a cult following of children, teenagers and adults in addition to health nuts and anyone watching their sugar intake.
"We're trying to give people a really healthy alternative to custard and the marble slab creameries that are around," says Goza. "That's really our goal with this store."
Since its grand opening in April, Mochi-Yo has received notable press for Bergmann's supplementary career as an MTV reality star. Bergmann, an Arizona State University graduate, was also a popular cast member on The Real World: Austin in 2005 and two seasons of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge in 2006. He is described on MTV.com as "the kind of guy you love to hate," a "super-competitive jock," and "also bright and entrepreneurial."
According to Goza, Bergmann's colorful television personality and fame has helped to garner additional media and customer attention.
"It's made a huge difference," says Goza. "It got us a lot of press coverage, and I think you have to stand out in the market."
Bergmann's marketing charm coupled with Goza's ivy-league education in economics has thus far proven to be a successful strategy. With competitive frozen yogurt sales, the duo has managed to balance friendship and business, a historically dicey endeavor.
"There is no golden rule regarding whether working with friends is a good idea or a bad one," says Bergmann. "The truth is that it all depends on the friend."
For Bergmann, Goza has always been a natural business partner.
"Kirk, aside from being a genius and entrepreneurial intellect, is also extremely easy to get along with," says Bergmann.
Indeed, the old friends have a working record of sorts. Having grown up in Leawood together, summers were spent launching various business schemes from lawn mowing to car-detailing.
"I think Wes was always kind of the instigator on those ideas, and in the summers when we had time off of school, we experimented with those ideas," says Goza.
After graduating from Blue Valley West, Bergmann left Leawood for college and MTV fame, and Goza moved to New York City where he studied supply and demand and, eventually, the genius behind Los Angeles-based Pinkberry frozen yogurt.
"I lived next to a Pinkberry in school," says Goza. "My roommate and I would go there all the time, and I really liked it. We talked about opening one, but it was just talk."
During one of Bergmann's MTV casting specials in New York, Goza was able to pitch the idea to him, and Bergmann responded positively. Shortly after college, Goza and Bergmann moved back to Leawood to embark on fresh fro-yo careers.
"I always wanted to be an entrepreneur in my hometown for two general reasons," says Bergmann. "First for my family and friends and secondly because Leawood is a great spot to start a business. I have a wealth of contacts that I've been building throughout my entire life that have come in handy at crucial times throughout the start-up process."
Beginning in the spring of 2008, the duo began all of the work necessary to secure investors including compiling a business plan of spreadsheets and sales projections. Support for the project increased after they pitched the idea to their parents and mutual business acquaintances--but not without falter.
"We must have pitched it to 50 different people," Goza says. "We had our ups and downs with raising money."
Having to cope with the loss of a few investors, the entrepreneurs boldly continued their building plans as if all the money needed had been secured. Despite their original shortcomings, somehow, it all worked out.
Looking forward, Goza and Bergmann are searching for another perfect location to open a second Mochi-Yo establishment sometime next year--possibly a small venue on the Country Club Plaza similar to the 800-square-foot space both believe they were fortunate to find on the popular shopping stretch of One Nineteen.
"Taking Mochi-Yo to a successful platform at a young age is a test for myself as well as a stepping stone for my goal of economic stimulation, job creation and the promotion of youth entrepreneurship," says Bergmann.
Beyond frozen yogurt, the dynamic duo hopes to expand its business partnership together and plan to open a business incubator in the future.
"The concept is basically to support businesses during those phases when they will not be making money," says Goza. "It's a much bigger project, certainly years of development away."
Goza's and Bergmann's visionary thinking is indicative of Generation Y's reputation-- that it is --constantly evolving and breaking the industry mold to fit its own shape. Perhaps it's a combination of energy, education and MTV.
For more information, visit www.mochi-yo.com or call (913) 338-0557.
words: Coco Owens
photos: Paul Versluis