Connor Wray '10
Connor met Erik, his friend and co-founder of JonnyPops, in 2010 while in school at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. Erik told Connor and some friends about his cousin Jonathan’s passing and the idea they had to make a simple, “good for you” frozen treat with real fruit and nothing artificial. Motivated by the story, Connor and his fellow classmates combined resources and started working on a recipe for JonnyPops. In 2012, they made their first sale to a local store.
Laying The Foundation
Connor attended Minnehaha beginning his sophomore year through his senior year of high school. He was active in the choral program at MA, sang in a college choir at St. Olaf, and still loves to sing in his choir at Mount Olivet Church. “I really had no idea about business until my senior year--when I took economics from Mr. Hoffner. It was by far one of my favorite classes.” He majored in economics and computer science, with economics sparking an interest that steered him on the path of both starting and working with JonnyPops while still in college. “MA was a solid foundation, helping me develop the skills of how to think and how to learn.”
More Than Frozen Treats
Today, at age 27, Connor is the Chief Financial Officer at JonnyPops, and oversees both financial and administrative aspects of the organization. He works full time at their sole manufacturing U.S. location in St. Louis Park, MN, where they make seven flavors of fruit and cream popsicles. Connor says, “It’s very rewarding to have a product that we work very hard to make sure people feel great about buying, sharing, and eating. JonnyPops tastes good, and people understand the ingredients--simple and natural--it’s good for them!” Their motto is “a better pop for a better world” which includes a social and ethical component --some of their proceeds support addiction recovery and rehab in honor of Erik’s cousin Jonathan. On every stick, they print good deeds that they call “better world challenges” that encourage people to make the world a better place with every pop, one pop at a time.
“It’s really fun to work on something every day where the whole point is a fantastic, positive interaction with eating a treat or sharing a treat. It’s also a privilege to be able to show up every day and work on something that you have been a part of since it was created and you have a stake in making it successful. That’s a privilege that not a lot of people have, and in particular not a lot of young people. It’s special thing to be able to say “every drop of sweat that goes into this, I’ve got a stake in it. I feel very lucky.”
Reflecting On The Past
Connor and Erik were named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list of young entrepreneurs in the Food & Drink category when they were both just 25 years old. Connor feels that Minnehaha prepared him well for the skills he uses every day: communication, writing, soft skills, and reading and absorbing information quickly to get up to speed on technical challenges. “I am dealing with new and unique challenges all the time. MA had a great focus on developing the skills of how to think.”
To The Students
What advice would he give to current students? “I am a believer that you get out of things what you put into them. There is an opportunity for anyone who is willing to ‘get after it.’ Success takes a lot of hard work, but there is an opportunity to be successful for anyone who is willing to work hard.”