Are you a health nut? Interested in what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Erik Brust, Co-Founder of JonnyPops is just that. An entrepreneur who followed his dream to create a frozen treat that was healthy and affordable.
Attendees gathered amidst a snow storm, Wednesday February 20, for our Leadership Luncheon. In typical Minnesota fashion, Erik passed out JonnyPops to start the luncheon and you could hear the chatter about how delicious the smoothies-on-a-stick were! What a fun sight: a room full of business professionals, enjoying popsicles in the middle of a snowstorm!
Brust shared the history of how JonnyPops began. After initially coming up with the idea with his older cousin, Jonathon, Brust went to college a few years later. He gathered a few friends, and they started to craft different recipes with a blender, some random kitchen utensils, and the basement kitchen. Brust chuckled about how they never ran out of people to taste-test their concoctions in the college dorms. JonnyPops officially launched after a $4,000 kickstarter, funded by family and friends and ingredients that they could find in the grocery store or a farmer’s market. JonnyPops are still made with fresh ingredients, and although that makes their shelf life shorter than other competitors, Brust and his team value that JonnyPops are 50% fruit.
JonnyPops continues to successfully grow and is doing really great things with their connections in the community. JonnyPops has partnered with Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation to provide jobs for people living in half-way house and recovering from addiction, but you wouldn’t know this from the company’s marketing. “We purposefully employ people living in half-way houses and recovering from addiction, but never wanted to use that connection to grow our business,” Brust said.
Because of Brust’s personal connection to addiction, he understand the need to have constant work for those he employs on the plant floor because change can be disruptive for those dealing with recovery. This knowledge helped JonnyPops expand in to the Southern markets to ensure production was high year-round in the Saint Louis Park, MN plant.
JonnyPops has another community-driven initiative, that is much better known. They have partnered with schools to encourage kids to eat healthier lunches, increase school attendance, and implementing anti-bullying programs. Along with the popsicles being healthier frozen options, they each have a “good deed” written on the sticks. Michelle Obama’s focus on healthier foods in schools and higher standards helped the company get in to the school districts because of their focus on fresh ingredients. They are one of seven brands allowed in schools districts, among hundreds of products that were disqualified from Obama’s standards.
JonnyPops expects to be around for a long time, and is currently available in 11,000 retail locations across the country. Brust expects the company to double once again in 2019, but is realistic that it will be tougher to maintain as time goes on.