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From left, Luke Untermann, Zak Barry, Galen McCleary and Matt Hong

If you’ve ever tasted Banán, you know that the banana-based, non-dairy ice cream is a delicious alternative to heavily processed and sugar-laden desserts. The company was started by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Shidler College of Business alumnus Luke Untermann and three of his childhood friends—Matt Hong, Zak Barry and Galen McCleary—back in 2015 when they collectively dreamed of starting a business that would support Hawaiʻi’s agriculture industry.

banana swirl in a pineapple

The team always had a big picture goal of reviving the banana industry. At that time, it was dwindling from disease, which was forcing many local farms to shut down. Banán has partnered with Hawaii Banana Source over the years to supplement their supply with organic, Hawaiʻi grown bananas. Barry says the partners hope that through Banán’s growth and its customers’ enjoyment of its tropical flavors, they can continue to be a part of supporting local agriculture while helping Hawaiʻi sustain itself.

Banán started selling its plant-based treats out of a food truck in the Diamond Head neighborhood. Today, it has grown to multiple locations across Oʻahu and is enjoying sweet success at its newest location in Kaimukī, next door to Barry’s parents’ Bead It! store. And the company’s latest addition is a sister brand called CheeHoo (Banán in an ice cream bar form) that is now available in grocery stores across the state.

Untermann said his Shidler College experiences were instrumental to starting and growing the business.

“My education propelled our business success in that UH programs really give you the opportunity and experience to work in team settings in a way that mimics the real business world,” he said.

The cofounders appreciate the community they’ve been able to create as part of their business journey.

“Banán’s community consists of athletes, artists and creatives who share a passion and want to leave a positive impact on the environment,” Barry said. “Sometimes it’s funny to think that a seemingly simple and silly cold treat unites our company and drives our mission to have a positive impact on our community in Hawaiʻi.”

For the entire story and more stories like this, see the fall/winter 2023 edition of Shidler Business.

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