Why Two Athletes and Best Friends Decided to Start a Frozen Yogurt Company
By Yitzi Weiner and Casmin Wisner
“…there was one problem — neither of us knew how to make ice cream.”
From childhood best friends to entrepreneurs, Drew Harrington, 32, and Amanda Klane, 31, are co-founders and co-CEOs of Yasso, the first-to-market frozen Greek yogurt offering, and the fastest growing brand in the frozen novelties category.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
Drew: Amanda and I met in kindergarten and became fast friends. Growing up together, we were more like brother and sister, and had a lot in common—primarily our involvement in athletics. Many afternoons and weekends were spent on the track and fields of our respective sports, and it’s there that we really started to learn about leadership, navigating challenges, and teamwork. It’s probably one of the largest contributing factors to our entrepreneurial spirits.
Fast forward 12 years and we both went off to college and played D1 athletics—Soccer at Providence College for Amanda, and track at American University for me. We remained best friends following our college years, and soon began discussing starting a business together. One pain point we had both experienced as athletes was finding a great tasting dessert that still met our nutritional benchmarks. Our options included diet ice cream brands that lacked taste, and super indulgent offerings that we couldn’t enjoy regularly. That’s where the idea for Yasso was born, and in 2011 we launched the company.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Drew: As we were kicking around the idea of launching Yasso in the winter of 2009, there was one problem — neither of us knew how to make ice cream. After multiple botched kitchen samples, and torturing our families and friends with less than delicious products, we knew we had to figure it out. So we went on Google and found that there was an “Ice Cream Camp” at Penn State University. Naturally, we hopped in a borrowed car and drove the 450 miles from Boston to Penn State in the middle of a harsh January winter — not ideal temperatures to learn about ice cream.
The course was two days over the weekend, and frankly a bit more expensive than what we could afford on our startup budget. So we did what most entrepreneurs do, and figured out how to make it work so we could both attend and learn. We registered under the name ‘Drew,’ thinking — Drew Bledsoe, Drew Barrymore — this could work for both of us! So Amanda attended the first day wearing my ‘Drew’ name tag while I went to the school’s library and took notes from all their dairy books. On the second day we swapped places and I went to class and Amanda continued the note taking in the library. When the two-day seminar wrapped up and we received our certificates of completion, all graduates were invited to a free cocktail hour — which we both attended! Needless to say, people were confused about who was Drew. The best part? We went to ice cream camp and left ready to make frozen Greek yogurt. Officially dubbing us ‘The Ice Cream School Misfits’.
So what exactly does your company do?
Amanda: Yasso exists to make really delicious desserts that you can eat daily. Taste has always been our priority when exploring innovation, and we’ve developed a way to consistently deliver on that promise, while still offering a high protein, low calorie, and low sugar nutritional profile. The Greek yogurt base helps us achieve the thick with creamy texture that shoppers expect in an ice cream product. We then top that off with real, rich inclusions like chocolate chips, cookie dough, and a caramel swirl. We’ve never strived to be the lowest calorie option on shelves—instead we attribute a lot of our success to satisfying that middle ground. A dessert that tastes fantastic and doesn’t come packed with guilt.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Amanda: Since inception we’ve been committed to not just creating a dessert that’s better for you, but to also build a better community. From our first days in business, we’ve internally created crowdsourced fundraising events for charities in need—both locally and nationally—and have helped raise over $250,000 through our own employees, who we call Team Yasso. We’re fortunate to be able to give back, and we are exploring ways we can amplify and formalize our efforts in the coming years.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I became CEO,” and why?
- Take care of yourself. Work-life balance is important to everyone. Get in a routine that allows you to be an effective leader in the office, and to personally grow and enjoy life outside of work. Buy running sneakers, eat healthy food, and spend time with loved ones to nurture your own physical and mental health. The job requires constant attention, and you can’t afford to not stay mentally and physically sharp. When you are fatigued or burnt out, your team will notice. If you establish personal time from the start, you’ll thank yourself later and end up in a more stable place.
- Surround yourself with team players, and listen to them. Collaboration and experience can lead to wonderful outcomes. Surround yourself with capable people who complement your own weaknesses or lack of experience, and set off on a journey as a team to create a dynamic business together. The friendships you form and the success you achieve together will be one of the most rewarding aspects of your life.
- Transparency creates a good work culture. Your people will invest a large portion of their time, energy, and trust in your company’s mission and work. Return the favor by giving them transparency into the business — from daily sales reporting to major equity raises or acquisitions. The more informed employees are, the better they can perform their jobs. Transparency creates a better work culture for everyone.
- Raise more money than you need. If you are the CEO of an exciting, fast-growing business like Yasso, there are tremendous opportunities and challenges throughout the journey. In capitalizing the business, raise more money than you think you need. It will save you time and energy in the long run and allow you to take on some projects you didn’t anticipate.
- Trust your instinct. You are the CEO for a reason. Gather the appropriate data and facts, consult with your peers and advisers for their perspectives, but trust your instinct. It’s most likely what got you this far.
- Hire people that are smarter than you. You’re never going to know the answer to everything, so surround yourself with a team of people who are experts in what they do. We had no idea how to create and manufacture frozen Greek yogurt when we started (even after a trip to ice cream camp), so we found people who were experts in dairy science and manufacturing, and that’s how we got our initial products made and scaled.
- Prioritize the important things. A lot of different things will get sent your way on a daily basis, so be able to take a step back and ensure you are focusing on the tasks and projects that will progress the business.
- Money is king. In order to drive a business forward, you need to have money in the business to reinvest. I wish someone had told us to take on more money before our first fundraiser because it saves a ton of time and energy and saves you from going back to market. Instead it allows you to keep driving the business rather than spending time in the fundraising process.
- Relax and breathe. There is a tremendous amount of stress when running a business, so find ways to alleviate that stress and keep a clear focus.
- Hire slow and fire fast. A good organization requires top people and a great culture. Take your time in hiring because a mistake in the process can cost you more time in the end. Make sure that if you do happen to hire someone that is not working out, that you get rid of them quickly. To let someone go is never easy, but the decision can be crucial to making the organization move forward smoothly.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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