For high schoolers, the prospect of a first job can be frightening. Many 16 year olds, with their new freedom to drive, are ready to start building their résumés and are filling out job applications.
Sundaze Frozen Yogurt, 4777 E. Sunrise Drive, has been hiring six of these new workers a year since opening in 2002. Owners Wendy and Peter Gallen have given 60 to 70 students their first jobs and, in the process, taught them many valuable life skills.
“Ninety-five percent of the girls we hire have never worked anywhere else. The challenge is that they don’t have previous experience. But it works to our benefit that we can train them to be the employee we want them to be,” said Peter Gellen. “Most stay until they go to college or turn 18 and can move on to a better job with bigger tips.”
When hiring young people, the Gallens look for an outgoing personality and good people skills. As part of the training, they teach them to maintain eye contact and polite conversation with customers.
Quality customer service is extremely important. About 75 percent of Sundaze customers are regulars. The Gallens have developed a “call list” so each time, a regular customer’s favorite flavor is in the store, they call them to come in.
In other instances, when Wendy Gallen or an employee sees a regular customer pull into the parking lot, they will start making their favorite treat before they even walk in the door.
The business skills taught to the young workers include prepping the shop and food, operating a cash register, getting orders right, being observant to customer needs and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.
Sundaze’s yogurt comes to the shop fresh from California with active yogurt cultures, calcium and protein. The shop has a nutrition book for anyone wanting detailed information on ingredients.
“Once they learn these skills they become secondary,” said Wendy.
All new workers train with Wendy Gallen for 8 to 10 shifts before they are paired with an experienced employee. Then the two work more independent of the owners. They never close the store or work alone at night. The Gallens pay minimum wage and coach the students that good customer service can get them another $3 in tips per hour.
Megan Hoke, a high school senior, has worked at Sundaze for a year and a half. Working twice a week in five-hour shifts, she has learned skills she can use after graduation.
“I’ve learned customer service, team work, and organization. The work atmosphere is laid back, and I’ve met a lot of nice people. There are a lot of regular customers,” said Hoke.
Wendy Gallen recalled a story about one of her favorite employees.
Soon after they opened the store, they weren’t sure about hiring a student who had been recommended to them. She was a shy junior in high school like “a deer in the headlights,” Gallen said, who added she had concerns about how the girl would interact with customers.
But after training and working with her on job skills, she blossomed and turned out to be “one of our best and most trusted employees.” Today, she is a first-grade teacher.
In 10 years, the Gallens have fired only four people. Since it is their first job, they are more lenient. The Gallens realize there are going to be mistakes. “Respect is key, you have to trust them. It will pay off in the long run,” said Peter.
That special first job relationship keeps the Gallens in touch with many students in their personal lives. They take prom pictures of students and attend graduations. After workers leave Sundaze, they have gone to weddings and baby showers.
“We’ve been involved in their milestones,” Peter said.