Forbes has named Connor Wray ’14 and Erik Brust ’14 to its “30 Under 30” list of young entrepreneurs for their work with JonnyPops, a company that has gone from a dorm room startup to the shelves of national retailers.
The business magazine says its list includes “600 of the brightest young entrepreneurs, innovators and game changers,” selected from more than 15,000 nominations.
“It’s a personal milestone for us,” Brust tells CBS affiliate WCCO-TV. “But we’re excited for the team because it’s a much bigger effort here than just the two of us.”
Wray and Brust started JonnyPops by trying different recipes in a blender in the basement of their St. Olaf dorm. Their goal was to create better tasting frozen bars — or “smoothies-on-a-stick,” as Twin Cities Business magazine says — with just natural ingredients: fruit, cream, sugar, water, and a pinch of salt.
They received an entrepreneurial grant from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career to help get JonnyPops started, and their business plan led them to take first place at the inaugural Ole Cup competition.
Today, JonnyPops produces about 80,000 of the frozen fruit and cream treats out of their facility in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. JonnyPops come in seven flavors, with four more on the way. Once a popular feature in Minnesota farmers markets, JonnyPops now stock shelves in national retailers like Kroger, Target, Walmart, Costco, and more.
At 25 years old, Brust and Wray are still dreaming. In 2015, they decided to make the perfect addition for a healthy school lunch. Their Smart Snack JonnyPop has real fruit as the primary ingredient. Smart Snacks have been a hit in Minnesota schools. Brust and Wray plan on expanding Smart Snacks beyond the state.
Each popsicle stick has a message. “We call it a better pop for a better world. It’s a really big program for us in the Minneapolis schools,” Brust tells NBC affiliate KARE 11. “We’ve basically spun it into this anti-bullying, pay it forward message, to get kids engaged with random acts of kindness.”