Get to know #StartupDayton's Bobby Walker of Fronana
DAYTON, O IS FULL OF INSPIRING PEOPLE.
DO YOU KNOW BOBBY WALKER?
If you don't, you should.
Bobby is the banana-crazed mastermind behind the wildly popular Dayton-based Fronana--a vegan-friendly, guilt-free frozen treat that is popping up in grocery stores all over the Dayton, Columbus, and Cincinnati regions. We love not only his vision and persistence, but also his fun, feel-good brand and delicious product.
In 2011, while going through pilot training with the US Air Force, Bobby made a discovery.
Craving ice cream but requiring a healthier alternative, he found a recipe for a banana-based frozen concoction that would give him the taste and enjoyment of ice cream without the waistline repercussions. He made a batch for himself and fell in love. Over the next three years, while changing career paths from pilot training to managing behavioral science research at the Air Force Research Laboratory, he continued to whip up new variations on his new found treat.
In 2014 while transitioning out of the military, he decided to take a chance and introduce his beloved indulgence to the crowds at local farmer's markets and street fairs. He said, "When I started out, I didn't have anything but myself, a Ninja blender, and an ice cream churn."
But Bobby didn't let that stop him. Combining fun and nostalgic imagery, like his old-time ice cream shop bow tie and his trike-pulled Fronana cart, he quickly gained a following of loyal banana-eating supporters.
As demand for his product grew, Bobby knew he had to take his business to the next level, and so he started looking for a commercial kitchen space. Unable to locate anything local, he made the drive to Columbus every week to prepare enough Fronana to supply his customers' cravings at weekend venues.
In Summer 2015 he was accepted into the Downtown Dayton Partnership's Activated Spaces Pop-Up Project where he found a building that could serve as both a storefront and a manufacturing space to support his scaling efforts. He said, "It was always my vision to sell Fronana by the pint in grocery stores."
And nearly a year later it seems that Bobby's vision is becoming reality. Within the last 6 months, Fronana has been picked up by Dorothy Lane Market, Dot's Market, and Kroger Marketplace, as well as by several stores in both Columbus and Cincinnati.
Fronana's rapid growth hasn't come without its fair share of trials, though. Bobby noted of his journey, "Before I got my Pop-Up Storefront, I tried to get a booth at Second Street Market, but they told me they didn't think my product was a good fit." He also referred to rejection from a health food store, a failed Kickstarter campaign, and an inefficient daily operations model. "I don't really think of any of those things as failures, though, because I didn't let them stop me. I just made adjustments and kept moving."
Want to connect with Bobby and the rest of the Fronana team? You can Like them on Facebook to get the latest updates on where to find Fronana. You can also Follow them on Twitter. While you're at it, stop by their Scoop Shop located at 27 W First Street in downtown Dayton and try a dish of one of their delicious flavors.