Jason Jan (pictured), a soft-spoken, 36-year-old entrepreneur from Malaysia, credits the University of Missouri–St. Louis with many of the good things in his life, including his career, a new home and a beautiful wife.
Jan earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1999 at UMSL. He launched the frozen yogurt store and brand FroYo in 2008. In less than five years, he opened six more stores in prime retail spots around the St. Louis area and two in California.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” Jan says. “My friends and I used to sit around the table in The Underground cafeteria [at UMSL] during the 1990s and talk about being entrepreneurs. We’d plan our own startup companies.”
He stays in touch with former classmates, still visits campus and credits retired Instructor in Finance Kenneth Locke for much of the knowledge and insight that Jan says has made him successful.
He was born and raised in Malaysia, but when his best friend left Southeast Asia to attend UMSL, Jan says he was determined to follow.
“I didn’t want my parents to spend a lot of money on private education,” he says. “I came to the U.S., visited my friend, toured the UMSL campus and found people to be very welcoming.”
During his second day on campus, Jan met Yen Luu, who he would eventually marry. After graduation, he went to California and partnered with family members and operated two barbecue restaurants.
“I learned about the restaurant business in Orange County,” Jan says. “I also discovered how popular frozen yogurt was becoming. You can indulge yourself with a delicious frozen dessert, filled with probiotics [microorganisms that can provide health benefits] and only 120 calories for eight ounces.”
But Jan says he knew he wanted to return to St. Louis, with its reasonable cost of living and family friendly communities, so he brought his entrepreneurial spirit and business savvy back to the place he now calls home.
Jan is a father of three small children and says buyers of FroYo tend to be younger. He often promotes his business to families and kids. One of his promotions is a contest that asks middle and high school students to design FroYo T-shirts. The winner gets an after-hours FroYo party, and the community gets to buy fun, customer-designed T-shirts.
“I like giving back to my community and its schools,” Jan says. “I’m a local owner-operator. That’s what we do.”
This story was originally published in the spring 2013 issue of UMSL Magazine.