Q&A With Michael & Victoria Philippou, Frozen Fruit Co. In Santa Monica
Michael and Victoria Philippou were two successful corporate lawyers in London before they decided to come to Los Angeles to pursue their dream of making a healthy, all-natural, and delicious dessert. The result? Frozen Fruit Co. in Santa Monica opened recently and serves up FroFru, a vegan-friendly, diary-free soft-serve dessert made entirely from fruit and natural fruit sugars — no syrups or water added. It’s not ice cream, it’s not frozen yogurt, and it’s not sorbet — it’s in a yummy class all by itself.
The entrepreneurial couple invited me to their lovely shop to try out FroFru for the first time and it was amazing. I tried the Raspberry & Orange, Mango, Strawberry, and Chocolate (Coconut & Cacao) flavors — it’s so hard to pick a favorite! The Coconut & Cacao is an irresistible combo, while the Raspberry & Orange is perfectly tart and the Mango and Stawberry flavors are so refreshing. I also wound up taking some home and let me tell you, they freeze really well for long-term enjoyment as well.
Michael and Victoria were nice enough to also answer some questions for us about their journey from the legal life and getting their MBAs to creating FroFru and opening Frozen Fruit Co. in Santa Monica.
What has the journey to open Frozen Fruit Co. has been like for you both?
Michael: We used to be lawyers back in The U. K. We have a real sweet tooth. We were always wanting to search for a healthier treat with a simple ingredient list, just made from fruit. We could never find it. We came up with it —Mango and strawberry was our first batch and it just grew from there. We couldn’t stop eating it. We were like, “Why is no one else doing this?” There seemed to be a little gap in the market. One thing led to another. We both really wanted to start a business. That seemed like a good route to go.
Victoria: We started testing the product and the concept back in the U. K. market. We started a little whole sale pots to local delis and small chains just to kind of garner some feedback. We always knew, right from the beginning, that really our dream was to come over to L. A. and open a store here. The frozen dessert culture is just a much bigger part of the culture here. Frozen yogurt, ice cream, it’s just a much bigger part of the culture. People coming out for frozen desserts after dinner. People just don’t do that in the U. K. It’s just a really tiny, niche, seasonal market back in the U. K.
We’ve been basically always wanting to open our first store in L. A. Once we garnered enough positive feedback back in the U. K., we started the whole move over here, which obviously took a while. Going through the whole visa process and securing a lease. Since we didn’t have any history here, it was a fairly long process.
What inspired you to make the leap from very successful legal careers starting your own business? Was there an “Aha” moment, where you were like, “We just have to go for it”?
Victoria: Our law firm asked both of us to do MBA’s. That’s actually where we met. In the end, we realized we had more passion for business rather than law. It originated from wanting to start a business. We really wanted to start a business together. We really started brainstorming. We start to go through our legal training obviously. We start just brainstorming ideas. Then finally this was something.
Michael: We were actually on vacation in Venice. A week just before Christmas when we were training. It was pouring down with rain and we were completely lost, in Venice. We just kept on talking about we really want to start a business. That’s what we’re really interested in.
It was kind of that moment. Why don’t we just do it? Why don’t we just stop talking about it and do it? I think that was our epiphany moment where we knew we wanted to do a business and not be in law anymore. We were tied in for two years, in law. This was right at the beginning. We have to wait out two years. It gave us some time to think about stuff and really plan stuff. It was frustrating because we wanted to get going with our ideas at the same time. That was the moment.
From your time as lawyers, what skills have you been able to apply to running a business, as well as getting into the food industry?
Michael: I think risks. Understanding risk; contractual risk, legal risk, even understanding food risk. You look at stuff more from a liability point of view when you’re a lawyer. Especially looking at your lease, you know what to look for straight away. Reading contracts is a lot more easier. You become a bit more stickler on stuff.
Victoria: Every contract, they’d always be surprised when we’d come back.
Michael: It’s a perpetual IP course.
What are some of the most popular flavors or popular flavor combinations and toppings that people choose?
Michael: By far, the most popular flavor is the coconut and cacao, which is a chocolaty one. That’s just coconut milk, cacao, and dates. I think because chocolate is such a universally, widely favored flavor. A lot of people actually mix it with the raspberry and orange because the two cut quite nicely each other. You get tart, and you get something a bit richer.
In terms of toppings, actually the funny thing with toppings is because our product is so powerful in taste naturally, sometimes a lot of people don’t actually go for toppings. It’s not a big part of what we offer. Usually, some people go super chocolaty. They’ll just buy chocolate, on chocolate, on chocolate. With extra chocolate so the dressing as well. Other people like a lot of the strawberry or coconut flakes.
Victoria: I’d say the most popular toppings are probably the nuts, the chocolate chips, the coconut, and the mochi.
Michael: Oh yeah, the mochi. People go mad for it.
Victoria: Oh, and sprinkles. We didn’t have sprinkles for ages. People just kept asking for them. We’re getting there. They are very popular as well.
What is the dessert food scene like in London and the U.K.?
Victoria: It’s more about the pop puddings, pop crumbles, pop cakes, or custard. There’s a baking program back in U. K., The Great British Bake Off, which is huge. People go crazy over it. That’s more the kind of culture. Frozen desserts aren’t very popular.
Michael: It’s very traditional in the sense, people on Fridays will like fish and chips. People like to go to a pub on Sunday and have your roast lunches and things like that.
What put Los Angeles on your radar to start Frozen Fruit Co.?
Victoria: One of the things was that food chains had begun here. It’s where the frozen yogurt resurgence began. Back in 2005, with Pink Berry. It’s where the trend began. Loads of food chains begun here because it’s such an innovative kind of market. Then there is seasonality and everywhere you are people go out to frozen dessert. It’s a quite health-conscious area. It’s a quite trend setting area.