Entrepreneur Jason Jan admits he’s a little camera-shy. “I prefer to be humble,” says Jan, a husband and father of three children—two boys, ages 5 and 8, and a 7-month-old daughter.
But posing for pictures and talking to reporters is the unintended consequence of creating a popular, fun and hip brand. Since opening his first FroYo Premium Frozen Yogurt store in the Delmar Loop in 2009, Jan’s success has been heralded around town. Still, he prefers the title of operator and business development manager—instead of owner—of the company’s seven St. Louis-area stores.
Born and raised in Malaysia, Jan first came to the United States to attend the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 1999. “I was very excited to come here,” Jan recalls about leaving his home country and studying in St. Louis, noting that few Malaysians are able to pursue their studies overseas. “I was excited to experience new cultures, understand new perspectives and learn new ideas.”
Jan met his wife, Yen, at UMSL. He graduated with a finance degree, and then moved to California in 2002 to earn an MBA. “I always wanted to open my own business,” he says. “Conversations with friends and classmates were always about business models and introducing new concepts to the market.”
Prior to earning his MBA, Jan received a job offer from a restaurant venture with eight locations in southern California. There, as district manager, he learned to solve the problems of operating a business.
In addition, California’s warm weather enabled Jan to pursue his passion for tennis. He and his wife enjoyed the West Coast lifestyle, as well as the mingling of many cultures and the exchange of ideas. But their priorities changed with the decision to have a family.
“I had spent more than 10 years in St. Louis (prior to California), I love the quality of life here,” Jan explains. “It’s great place to settle down and raise kids.”
And to support his young family, Jan chose the restaurant business, drawing upon his work experience, education and interest in business challenges. “I understand the restaurant model—performance is easier to control and predict compared to other businesses,” he notes. “This is especially true for casual dining restaurants.”
Jan understood that success and failure come with the territory. His friends worried about him opening a frozen yogurt business in St. Louis, instead of in warm weather- and health-conscious California. But he did his homework, as usual. “I did some research and learned that Boston consumed the most frozen yogurt per person in the country,” he says.
After Jan made the decision open shop in St. Louis, a friend spotted a vacant Delmar Loop storefront in an area that had high-volume foot traffic, plenty of retailers that attracted shoppers, and a young, creative and active population. The location was a perfect match for a frozen yogurt business that wanted to be innovative.
In four years, Jan opened six other stores across St. Louis area and sold licenses for two California stores to his brother. As for the rest of his family, he says he misses his parents and siblings in Malaysia, and wishes that his parents were able to spend more time with their grandchildren. “Technology really helps with the face-to-face overseas conversations,” he says. “I carry my daughter in front of my computer’s camera so my parents can see her.”
In his free time, Jan enjoys being ‘daddy,’ helping his sons with their homework, taking them to swimming and piano lessons and teaching them tennis.
When it comes to his other ‘baby,’ Jan says he has no intention of moving his company out of state or out of the country. “I’m proud that FroYo is a local business that started from the ground up in St. Louis,” he says. “I’m also proud that we recruit local people to work for us and help us grow, and that we contribute to the St. Louis economy.”