Lea Lana’s Bananas sprouted from a moment of whimsy when, on a quest to spread happiness, I strolled through my kitchen and caught a glimpse of a grinning banana sitting on the counter. That instant sparked the idea to turn this cheerful fruit into something that could bring smiles to others.
Entrepreneurship runs in my blood, dating back generations. My mom pioneered her own Recycled Children Clothing Stores, while my grandfather helmed Sterling Bank, a haven for Hollywood stars and musicians. Even further back, my great grandparents thrived with a bustling farm in Buchanan, Saskatoon, Canada, raising 13 children alongside their business. I dove into the world of entrepreneurship at a tender age, joining my mom’s clothing stores at 9. She mentored me, starting with small tasks and gradually entrusting me with more significant responsibilities. These early lessons laid a rock-solid foundation that prepared me for diverse roles in my life. Simultaneously, I spent school breaks alongside my grandfather, immersing myself in the fascinating world of banking. Those days were filled with endless adventures, fueling a fervent desire within me to one day have a business of my own. These childhood experiences ignited an unwavering passion for entrepreneurship that continues to drive me today.
My entrepreneurial adventures spanned various ventures—Wedding Day Newsletters, Daycare, Homewares, Real Estate, and more. With each, I meticulously planned every detail: business strategies, marketing schemes, logo designs—you name it. But when I leaped into Lea Lana’s Bananas, I tossed plans aside and embraced the unknown.
It all sprouted from a simple idea: slicing bananas, dipping them in chocolate, freezing them, and rolling them in toppings. Fun fact: the original banana pops sported pretzel sticks until we realized they were more breakable than sturdy, swiftly swapping them for popsicle sticks. By day’s end, I had a rhyming business name, a business license, social media, and a call to a friend—a potential builder for a mobile Banana Cart, a concept we hadn’t quite figured out yet. It was my first dive into something without a detailed plan, solely driven by the desire to spread happiness through bananas.
Operating the Banana Cart at private events for six months came with its challenges, as did delivering frozen treats in a scorching desert. Then came a call from The Forum Shops, offering me a spot. Terrified yet believing in the “try before you fail” mantra, I exclaimed YES! Yet, fate smiled as the current tenant decided to stay, granting a momentary sigh of relief. More calls followed—from Premium Outlets to Palazzo—but those didn’t pan out.
That’s when the idea of a local shop began to form. November 2019 marked the discovery of the perfect space. Months flew by, dedicated to construction, and on March 9th, 2020, I proudly opened my doors—only to celebrate my grand opening solo. Debt loomed, no staff, an untested menu, and a grocery store of rationing bananas—it was quite the launch.
From Bananas to Bananagers
Every entrepreneur worldwide will tell you, navigating the world of hiring and managing employees is one rollercoaster of a journey. Let’s face it—finding someone with your fire and passion, ready to pull eighteen-hour days, seven-days a week for years is yet to be found. And to think, Entrepreneurs do it all for no pay.
Back when the business was a snug fit, I juggled it all—phone calls, orders, deliveries, even the trusty Banana Cart—every last bit of it. Then came the light bulb moment: growth meant embracing change, which, in my case, meant bringing in a team. Luckily, my kids had hit their teenage years, and just as my mother had laid my groundwork, I saw an opportunity to do the same for them. I invited them aboard, and each found their unique spot. Nathan, the eldest, thrives as a shift lead, craving direction while getting the job done. Hailey, the middle child, reigns supreme, mastering everything from shop operations to balancing the books. And Airiella, the youngest, rules the Waterpark Banana Cart, steering that ship like a pro.
Then, in 2021, my childhood bestie, Kat, jumped on board as our Operations Bananager (Yes, Bananager—it’s a thing here at Lea Lana’s Bananas!). Beyond our family crew, we’ve welcomed several teenagers into the mix. It’s a joy sculpting their customer service finesse, work ethic, and life-lasting skills. What’s amazing? Running the day-to-day at Lea Lana’s Bananas is powered by this teen squad—they’re given plenty of responsibility but lots of freedom, and they rock it!
Frozen Pops to Pudding and Beyond
Inspired by the streamlined approach of In-N-Out Burger and the incredible strides made by Lynsi Snyder, I set my sights on simplicity for my business model—only, I wished bananas had the same burger-level popularity! Our concept kickstarted with a frozen banana, a menu staple from day one that remains close to our hearts.
A few years into running the Banana Shop, a light bulb moment struck: Banana Pudding. Crafting this delight turned heads, especially when our Saturday lineup formed at 10 am, clearing us out of pudding by noon! We heeded our customers’ desires and soon made it a daily star on our menu. Our Pudding is now Instagram and world-famous with customers visiting us from as far away as Japan.
Expanding our horizons, we introduced other banana-centric treats—Banana Splits, Shakes, and Sundaes—and threw in a twist for non-banana enthusiasts with Chocolate-Dipped Frozen Cheesecake and Strawberry Cheesecake Pudding. Occasionally, I stumble upon fresh ideas on Pinterest, like Cocoa Bombs, which soared in sales but demanded hours of effort daily. Lesson learned: diversity in the menu is key but keeping an eye on production time is vital. If it’s simple, uses available ingredients, and doesn’t hog the clock, why not give it a whirl?
Bananas, Branding and Big Dreams
When this journey began, I’ll admit, I had no clue where it would lead—and truth be told, I’m still navigating the path ahead. I approach new opportunities with a keen eye, weighing their impact on the business and brand. With Hailey and the Squad now steering the day-to-day ship, I’ve gained the freedom to focus on a bigger dream: expanding our reach to become a nationwide brand, spreading happiness across the entire US.
Franchising inquiries flood in constantly, but my heart’s not in it. What drives me is elevating customer satisfaction, delivering stunning gifts, and crafting desserts worthy of a snapshot. Presently, my sights are set on securing a second shop right here in Las Vegas before venturing beyond state borders. Our current footprint includes a bustling shop on S. Rainbow, two vibrant Carts at The Las Vegas Ballpark, and another at Cowabunga Waterpark in the southwest (keeping fingers crossed for the Henderson spot in 2024!).
Beyond business aspirations, I’m fueled by a larger goal: establishing a foundation to nurture future female entrepreneurs. My aim is to pave the way, offering insights into the grit, dedication, expertise, and, crucially, the art of branding—an indispensable ingredient for making your mark in the business world.
Thanks, a “bunch” for taking the time to get to know Lea Lana Banana!
Visit them online or better yet, stop in for a box of sweet treats!
7345 S Rainbow Blvd Suite 130, Las Vegas, NV 89139