Rady School Alum Robert Yang Brings "Snow" to San Diego
San Diego is not known for snow, but Rady alum Robert Yang (FlexWeekend '10) is trying to change that. Yang is launching a shaved snow shop, Iceskimo, in the Kearny Mesa community of San Diego, a first for the area. Shaved snow is a popular treat in Taiwan and Yang describes it as "a blend of Hawaiian shaved ice and ice cream with the light texture of cotton candy." The sweet frozen confections at Iceskimo will be made from scratch with fresh ingredients.
Becoming a proprietor of a shaved snow shop seems like an odd twist in Yang's career, who has background in engineering and worked in the defense industry. But, he came to the Rady School precisely because he wanted to change his career path. He has a passion for food and the desire to build a business of his own, so launching a food startup was actually a perfect fit.
With the business acumen he gained at the Rady School and a stint in operations at a Bay Area food startup, Yang was inspired to bring something new and exciting to San Diego. He moved to Taiwan for a short time, a place he had lived as a child, to examine the different food concepts that might work in the U.S.
"I looked at many different ideas, from night market snacks, noodles and dumplings to various other desserts. Shaved snow seemed like an up-and-coming idea. It was something I could share that was Taiwanese, but could be adapted for America. There are a couple of successful stores in Los Angeles, but no permanent shaved snow store in San Diego."
Yang tested his shaved snow concept at an informal "pop-up" shop inside Pangea Bakery on Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa. The experience acted as an incubator for his idea where he honed flavors, portion size and pricing. Most importantly, the pop-up shop proved that there is a demand in San Diego for authentic shaved snow.
"The idea of a pop-up is cool because not only does it give you the chance to test the market, but you can build an audience for when you launch the store," said Yang.
While working on testing and refining his product at the pop-up, Yang started construction on the shop and put his MBA to work with marketing, branding and supply chain logistics activities. . Although it was an intensely busy time for Yang, he said he had amazing support from friends and family to help him realize his dream of owning his own business.
Despite the long hours and stress of opening a new business, Yang is excited and optimistic about growing his company.
"We all spend so many hours of our life working," said Yang. "I've worked for a big company and then for someone else's dream. I think having your own company and working for something you care about makes you try harder and makes you happier overall. I'm definitely working more than I was for someone else, but it's a great feeling of satisfaction that everything I've built is my own."