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Courtesy of Yoga-urt
Courtesy of Yoga-urt
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Meet Melissa Schulman, Founder Of Yoga-urt

Picture of Jarone Ashkenazi
Updated: 29 November 2016
Since Yoga-urt opened in 2015, it has quickly become one of the best places in LA to get vegan frozen yogurt. Each flavor is made on-site using nut milk (and it’s kosher) giving the yogurt a smooth texture, similar to regular frozen yogurt. We talk to founder Melissa Schulman about the business and the philosophy behind it.

Where did you go during your sabbatical year?

I was fortunate to take a year off from my career after working at the same design company for 11 years. Surprising even to me, I immediately signed up for a nearby yoga teacher training at Yoga Blend. In addition to the yoga teacher training, I worked at the studio’s front desk, took yoga workshops and classes, taught yoga, went on retreats, and generally immersed myself in everything yoga. I call it my ‘yoga bubble’ year. It was the best year of my life!

When did you start getting into yoga?

I began practicing yoga in 2009 after being encouraged by my chiropractor to do so to treat the chronic pain I was struggling with. I never thought yoga was for me because I’m not flexible and didn’t feel that I fit in, but I quickly realized that none of that mattered because yoga meets you exactly where you are. Over time, not only did yoga relieve my pain but also brought me a more peaceful mind, stronger body, increased my confidence, and introduced me to a community of like-minded people. I fell in love with yoga, and it has helped me in every aspect of my life.

Melissa practicing yoga (credit: Yoga-urt)
Melissa practicing yoga | Courtesy of Yoga-urt

How did the yoga-yogurt connection come to be?

The yoga-yogurt connection began at a simple lunch with my cousin in 2011. He was teasing me about being a yoga teacher and went off on a riff about yogurt being created before yoga. I said multiple times that he was wrong, but every time, he would come back with a silly reason why he was right – and I was wrong. Forty-five minutes later, my cousin topped off his jokes by saying, ‘Why don’t you teach yoga and serve yogurt and call it ‘Yoga-urt’.’ We laughed and then went on our merry ways.

However, I could not forget ‘Yoga-urt.’ Something about it captivated me, and I actually started to think about what a ‘Yoga-urt’ place could be. I started researching the yoga and yogurt industries online and became more excited and somewhat obsessed.

How do you balance running a business and practicing yoga?

In addition to running Yoga-urt, I also have a full-time job as a producer at a design company in Pasadena, and I don’t think I could carry such a crazy schedule without yoga; for me, it is a necessity. It’s the only time I have to disconnect and just focus on myself. It keeps me strong both physically and mentally, and fills me up in ways I haven’t found elsewhere. Even when I’m exhausted, I always feel better after a yoga class.

Melissa at Yoga-urt in Glendale (credit: Yoga-urt)
Melissa at Yoga-urt in Glendale | Courtesy of Yoga-urt

Are you vegan? Why did you choose to make yogurt free of dairy, soy and gluten?

A healthy product has always been a priority to me. The Yoga-urt soft serve product evolved over the four-year journey it took to open the store. I knew from the very beginning once our team created the base and flavors that I wanted the product to be all-organic and offer vegan and gluten-free flavors with added probiotics that weren’t sorbets, weren’t made with soy, and tasted delicious. Although I’m not vegan myself, I just wanted a product that not only my vegan yogi friends can enjoy but also other vegans and non-vegans alike in the greater Los Angeles area.

How did you and your head chef Meredith come up with new flavors?

Before anyone knew what I was doing, I posted on my Facebook page for people to suggest their favorite frozen yogurt flavors. The responses were so helpful, and that is honestly how I picked the first six to eight flavors that we made. I actually did the same thing for our winter flavor last year which ended up being Pumpkin Spice. For our latest flavor, I told Meredith Sarah Klein, our head chef, that I wanted to do a unique flavor, and she came back with a suggestion that I had never heard of, hence, our newest flavor Radiant Golden Rose, which has rose water, turmeric, and saffron.

Green Tea Tranquility with fruit toppings (credit: Yoga-urt)
Green Tea Tranquility with fruit toppings | Courtesy of Yoga-urt

Can you tell us about your shop – it’s atmosphere and menu?

The shop is basically a relatively small ‘walk-in’ storefront on a tree-lined street nestled in the outskirts of Glendale, CA. Sticking to a yoga-studio theme, the interior is a peaceful place where you can enjoy your soft serve. We also have a popular zen patio in the back with lots of plants and a small fountain. And in front, there is a chalk wall where you can share inspiring quotes or words.

Some of our flavors include Chocolate Bliss, Salted Caramel Zen, Tantric Tart, Peanut Butter Prana, and Ganesha’s Sweet Greens (our no-sugar-added flavor). We have some flavors that we offer year-round like Chocolate and Strawberry, but we do rotate a flavor or two every few weeks. We also offer made-in-house gluten-free waffle cones that are very popular.

What are the most popular flavors and toppings? And your favorite flavor and topping option?

Our most popular flavors are Chocolate Bliss and Strawberry Serenity, and our most popular toppings are chocolate chips and strawberries, but Charlie’s brownie bites are pretty popular too. As for me, my favorite is definitely Chocolate Bliss, usually without toppings, but if I get them, then I would say mochi or chocolate sauce. I love my chocolate.

Vanilla Harmony with toppings (credit: Yoga-urt)
Vanilla Harmony with toppings | Courtesy of Yoga-urt

Currently you are only in Glendale. Do you have any expansion plans?

I’ve always had big plans for Yoga-urt, and I would love the opportunity to expand. I get asked about it all the time by people visiting the shop, on social media, and emailing me through the website. I love that people want more locations, and no one wants that more than me. We are currently working on it but no word as to when; it’s just a matter of time. What this journey has taught me is that if I stay open and do the work, anything is possible.

Quick answers

Fruit-flavored or chocolate-flavored yogurt? Chocolate

Bikram or Vinyasa? Vinyasa

Sorbet or Gelato? Gelato

Ice Cream or Soft serve? Both!

Toppings or No toppings? No toppings

Yoga-urt, 1407 W Kenneth Rd, Glendale, CA, USA, +1 818 545 3880