Hey guys, it’s my birthday and I’m going B-A-N-A-N-A-S. I really hope you just went full-on hollaback girl (because I definitely did). By the way, that song came out ten years ago, which, coincidentally, is bananas. Speaking of bananas, Hannah Cooper, the bringer of all things fun & completely awesome, is helping me ring in a new year and I might just be craving dessert for breakfast. Right around the time we were all rocking out to Gwen Stefani, Hannah dreamed up the wondrousness that is Hannah’s Bananas. And just this year, she threw caution to the wind and set out to de-throne the Bluth’s, which I’m fairly certain she accomplished by virtue of her kickass logo, outrageously fun photo shoots and oh-so-amazing vintage trailer. Without a doubt, this go-getter has a very sweet future ahead of her.
NAME Hannah Cooper
LOCATION Huntington Beach, California
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND B.A. in Business Administration // Azusa Pacific University, 2009
COMPANY Hannah’s Bananas
ESTABLISHED Dreamed up in October of 2004
Tell me a bit about yourself and what inspired such a fun business idea. In the first grade, I announced that when I grew up I was going to be the ice cream (wo)man but I never thought my career would excite the first grade dreamer in me. Hannah’s Bananas was unexpectedly thought up during my senior year of high school in my parent’s kitchen. On a random school night, I made four chocolate-covered frozen bananas out of the store-bought packets, handed them to my mom and her friend, and with the simple phrase “Hannah’s Bananas”, we began dreaming. Hannah’s Bananas — a chocolate covered frozen banana catering company — was born, but little did I, or anybody else realize that ten years later, it would still be alive.
Once you had the idea, what happened next? How long did it take to create your business plan and launch your sweet company? In October 2004 I was offered my first Hannah’s Bananas catering job at a local church event. With nothing started on my project, except the name of the company and the general idea, I had no clue how I was going to pull this off, but I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. For three weeks, I experimented with the temperature of frozen bananas, tasted different chocolates, sampled toppings, and had a simple pushcart created. The day of the event came and Hannah’s Bananas turned out to be a huge hit! Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect and there has been a significant amount of growth over the process, but the pushcart rolled and nobody chipped a tooth, so to me, I conquered the world. During my senior year of high school, I ended up doing about eight events in the community and serving over 600 bananas. My senior project checked off with an A-grade and I turned my tassel at graduation, ready for my next journey in life.
Throughout college, Hannah’s Bananas served as a perfect side gig and extra spending cash. Over the years, my business plan continued to develop and it lingered in the back of my mind that maybe this senior project could actually become something more, but it always felt like a dream, more than a reality. I graduated from college with a business degree, and joined the 8-5-work life. It took several years behind a desk, comfortably working for the man, before I decided to just go for it. Just this summer (July 2014), I quit my day job in the hopes of chasing my dream job. Hannah’s Bananas was thought up in October 2004, and almost exactly a decade later, it has been truly established.
How did you gain exposure when you first started out? How have you approached marketing since? Since the beginning, word of mouth has always been the most powerful form of advertising for Hannah’s Bananas. In Orange County, people talk. There are SO many creative dessert companies so being seen is always one of the greatest challenges. Lately, I’ve seen first hand how effective social media is for small companies, and have been focusing a lot of my attention on Instagram and Facebook.
Your vintage trailer is absolutely incredible and a perfect fit for your brand. Tell me a bit about the trailer and what the restoration/design process was like. This trailer was a miracle and I don’t say that lightly. The story of how this trailer came to be inspires me to keep going with Hannah’s Bananas. I dreamed of a vintage trailer to serve our classic treat from, but with a teeny tiny budget, I didn’t see it coming true too soon. I searched Craigslist for months looking for a trailer to restore, and thought I found the perfect one for a reasonable price in viva Las Vegas. My dad (thanks Dad!) decided this called for a Saturday road trip, and six hours later, we were disappointed with what we found. Feeling discouraged, we got back in the car and headed home. Disclaimer: this is a true story. On the side of the I-15, there was a piece of junk trailer way off in the distant desert. I begged my dad to pull over and used the excuse that we needed to “stretch our legs”. We did and we looked far out in the distance at the trailer. Just then the owner pulled up (who I swear was an old cowboy and probably had a gun slapped on his ankle), told us we were on his property, asked us why we were there (with not the nicest words), then offered the trailer to us for pennies (maybe not pennies, but DIRT CHEAP!). This thing hardly rolled, had no windows, and I’ll leave out the details of all the goods we found on the inside. We hooked on this dream and towed it to the Canned Ham Man in Riverside. My small budget wasn’t even going to be able to replace the door or windows so I had a bit of an issue. Within weeks, the repair shop called to let me know they had just been picked up for a trailer restoration show and wanted me to audition. YOU GUYS! The miracles continue and I got picked for episode number one to create a banana trailer! We filmed, made this piece of junk into what it is…and the show got cancelled but Hannah’s Bananas scored with a pretty dreamy banana trailer. All the glam and glory of the 1976 Me Too trailer is credited to the incredible Canned Ham crew (you all are STUDS!).
What has been the most rewarding aspect of owning your own business? Most challenging? It’s really rewarding and exciting to see all the hard work play out! Each and every little thing you do is going to affect your business in one way or another, and to me, that makes the countless hours of work worth it. Owning your business allows you to take all your strengths and creativity, and combine them to create something great! You are in control of your businesses success or failure daily, which in itself is also the most terrifying part of it all. When you work an 8-5, typically your work brain shuts off after you walk out the office doors. With owning your own business you switch to working the 24/7 shifts, but when it’s something you love and something of your own, it’s suddenly okay. There are aspects of business that are a MUST for success, some of which I wouldn’t necessarily consider my forte (like +-x/=). Every part is a learning process, and all are part of the job. Business is constantly evolving and changing. No two days are alike, which as a business owner, makes you stay on your tip-toes.
What one pearl of wisdom would you share with someone considering starting their own business? Be confident in what you’ve created. People love to cheer on somebody that is taking a risk and following their dreams. It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re taking a chance but so much is learned throughout the process. If you love whatever it is, keep going. Any good thing takes time and a whole lot of hard work. Nothing good comes easy but its SO worth it. Psstt…AND!…stop worrying, work hard and have fun with it. Life’s too short.
Lets travel back in time a few years. What advice would you give yourself on the topic of entrepreneurship? Be brave. Stop looking around and focus. It’s so easy to compare what you have to all the other successful companies and get discouraged. Every company, big or small, had to start somewhere. The time is now. For so many years, I was afraid to dive all-in with Hannah’s Bananas because I was scared of failure. A comfortable, day job seemed like the only way. I finally took the leap, and yeah, as expected, it’s terrifying, but it’s been a rewarding process that I would have always wondered about if I didn’t ever take the chance.
Fast-forward five years. Where do you hope to see yourself and Hannah’s Bananas? It’s fun to think about the future because it’s a complete mystery, but beyond exciting…really anything is possible. I never thought at this point in life, this is where I would be and in five years, I bet I’ll look at what I’m doing then and think the same thing. There is so much to dream up with Hannah’s Bananas and my mind never stops turning: new invented flavors, dazzling pushcarts, creatively designed photo shoots, mind-blowing partnerships, and/or an expanded menu…truly, the world IS your oyster.
Guilty pleasure? Old-fashion glazed donuts. I will never, EVER be mad if you surprise me with one. It’s the way to my heart.
Coffee order? I have a serious love for coffee. I will drink just about any coffee, any time of the day. When I’m feeling rich and it happens to be fall, ill take one pumpkin spiced latte, please.
Spirit animal? Hmm…depends on the day. I’d like to be a lion to ROAR like Katy P., but it doesn’t come natural to me.
Craziest banana order? Bachelorette parties. Need I say more?
Song you could listen to on repeat? Beyoncé’s “Love on Top” – it just never gets old.
Photography | Diana Rush Photography