You know, I am always amazed by how fortunate I am to have such creative and interesting friends. I meet really cool people at through my running via Twitter, Facebook, blog and *gasp* real-life.
Case in point, I opened my Facebook messages one day recently and came across a note from a pal from the Toronto improv scene, Gord:
I hope you’re doing great in whichever port, city, or chunk of ocean you happen to be on right now! I just wanted to send you a quick note to say that this year I, and especially my friend Jan, have been pouring our time and energy into a new project called Jananas.
Today, we’re unveiling an amazingly decadent and healthy product that’s great for your health and your sweet tooth. You can check it out here:
If you can click the Facebook and Twitter buttons on the page in the link, that would be fantastic to help spread the word. Thanks for your time, and I hope you have a terrific Monday, m’dear! gordo :o)
P.S.: Please feel free to forward this on to anyone you think would be interested –- friends, family, co-workers, fans of ice cream… The more the merrier!
Decadent and healthy? Color me curious! I went to the Kickstarter page, and watched the fun video introducing the product. Oh, yes. This was something the world needed.
Jan and Gord were kind enough to answer some of my questions about their healthy and delicious alternative to ice cream:
Hi Jananas Big-Wigs! We’d love to know who you are, and what you do for the company – so, do tell!
Meet Jan Brown, Founder and Big Cone-huna. She previously worked at a raw food restaurant as the sous-chef and has experience with a number of small businesses.
And the dapper, Gord Oxley, Designer and Photoshopoholic. He merges his background in comedy, graphic design, and copy editing.
So let’s get down to the nitty gritty. What is Jananas?
- Jananas is a new healthy decadent “ice cream”, made from bananas instead of milk. The name came from putting together “Jan” and “Bananas”.
The description on your Kickstarter page of your first Jananas concoction made my mouth water. Tell us again what that was – and slowly.
- “Simple to make, we took frozen bananas and processed it until it was soft and creamy. From five big bananas came five big bowls of “ice cream,” topped with melted peanut butter and spicy chocolate. Everyone loved it, so smooth and rich.”
Was frozen banana ‘ice cream” something you’d made in the past, or was it a sweet-tooth inspired, in the moment discovery?
- I had first made it at the raw restaurant, where we added fresh lime, and it sold extremely well. When I was at a retreat in BC, where we came up with the idea, it was a dessert that even I, the gluten-intolerant vegan could eat and we could enjoy easily as a group. Everyone adored it!
Why do we need Jananas?
- Today there’s much more health awareness, but people don’t want to sacrifice taste at all. There’s definitely a market for a lower-fat decadent dessert, made with simple, pure or organic ingredients.
- Parents look for wholesome treats for their kids – this is a perfect option for them.
- As well, there are so many more food intolerances and specialty diets than ever before. Having a dessert that works for people who need dairy-, gluten-, egg-free, and vegan food is a wonderful convenience.
- You who’s trying to eat healthily, your kids, your vegan friend, plus your gluten-intolerant cousin can all eat it!
What was the spark that inspired you to try to bring this to market?
- It was literally at the retreat. As we were sitting around and everyone was so amazed at how delicious and healthy it was, one girl who’s a graduate student at Yale said we should try to sell it. That was the eureka moment for me, with food being in my background. She and I talked later, and thankfully she said I could just take it on – she loves coming up with ideas but wants to put her energy into her studies. It worked out perfectly.
You mention that the $4000 initial investment will be matched with government funding (nice!) – is there a grant program for small business that you’re working with?
- At the Guelph business innovation centre, my Entrepreneur in Residence and I did a funding scan of all available grants and loans out there. The first one we’re going for is a “Technical Problem Solving Grant” that another drink entrepreneur received. In this case the technical problem would be to get the creamiest mouth-feel possible and to minimize ice crystals.
What has been your biggest challenge so far, and how are you overcoming it?
- The biggest challenge is that taking a product to market is fairly in-depth, and we are new to it. Thankfully, we’ve teamed up with some great advisors, and have been attending courses through MaRS Discovery District.
Is your long term goal to be the healthy Ben and Jerry’s?
- Basically, but a non-dairy one. I (Jan) definitely have a crush on the company, and think it’s great; they’re a business for the people and try to give back.
- We’re positioning ourselves between Ben and Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs – fun, decadent, healthy, for connoisseurs.
What advice would you give other women who are looking to start their own small business?
- That it’s ok and a good thing to think big. Women are wonderfully equipped to be leaders and to run businesses. As long as you listen to yourself and keep your values foremost, it’s amazing what can be accomplished.
Where are you looking to sell Jananas, ideally?
- We’d start with natural food grocery stores, such as Whole Foods, and Longos, and independents. Long-term: the regular chains – we have some connections and we’ll approach them once we have a solid gold-standard recipe that’s ready for production.
When can we hope to see Jananas on our store shelves?
- We’re hoping for late summer 2014! It hinges on the product development and sourcing, and a bit on funds. If for example we partner with a substantial investor who could make things happen quickly, it may even be before then.
You’ve got some fun investment levels on your Kickstarter page. Which one (or two) are you most excited about offering?
- I think we’re most excited about the taste-testing and the ice cream scientist, the ones that really get people involved. A sleeper one though is the Single Scoop (video of me making ice cream with bananas “you” provided for). It’s done in a really fun silent movie style, and has some really creative moments.
So there you have it. If you’re a supporter of healthier ice cream, women, small businesses or women who run a small business about healthy ice cream, then this Kickstarter page is for you! Let’s make this vision a reality and kick those donations into high gear. There’s just over two weeks left in the campaign, and I really, really want to be able to buy this next summer!
I am an actor/writer/director based in Chicago, IL.