A Taste of Success: The Story of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream…

Ben and Jerry's StartupIn my location, location, location post this week, I discussed the ways in which the environment we live in can affect our likelihood of success and one of the top locations I listed was New York City; prime for the American dream.

In this post I’ll be discussing two men – who I’m sure you’ve heard of – who both came from New York City and both fulfilled the American dream to its true definition.

Not only were Ben and Jerry self-made businessmen, but they were also good friends and remain good friends today. And that, I think, is the reason why their story is a great one for any potential world-changer to learn from today.

Benjamin Cohen

Without question, the balance of power on the planet today lies in the hands of business.    -    Benjamin Cohen

Ben Cohen Ben and Jerry'sIn the year 1951, Benjamin Cohen was born to parents Frances and Irving in Brooklyn, New York. Having always had an interest in the ice cream industry, Cohen found work as an ice cream man in his senior year to keep him afloat whilst he attended Colgate University.

Cohen’s time at Colgate was short lived, but during this time he worked numerous jobs; from a McDonald’s cashier to a taxi driver to a crafts teacher at a school for disturbed adolescents. It was during these final years of tedious work that Ben began to experiment with ice-cream making. And shortly follow was the opportunity to move with Jerry to Saratoga Springs to make the dreams a reality.

Now, decades later, Ben is a business man to admire. Not only is he co-founder of one of the largest ice cream businesses in the entire world but he also oversees various projects for charity and business. He remains close friends with Jerry, and insists that his work is still his passion all these years since the first Ben and Jerry’s shop opened in 1978.

Jerry Greenfield

If you open up the mind, the opportunity to address both profits and social conditions are limitless. It’s a process of innovation.    -   Jerry Greenfield

Jerry Greenfield Ben and Jerry's

Jerry Greenfield was born in Long Island, New York in the same hospital (and the same week) as his future best friend and business collaborator Ben Cohen in March 1951. Jerry’s father was a stockbroker and he lived in Long Island through-out his youth years within walking distance of Ben who he did not meet until 1963 in a seventh grade gym class.

Initially Jerry wanted to study medicine at University, but after having two unsuccessful applications and working as a lab technician Jerry put down the lab coat and moved back north to live with Cohen in Saratoga Springs where the pair began to work on their business.

Jerry Greenfield is a prime example of a perfect work-life balance, because although he is now a successful businessman he continues to live a quiet home life in Williston, Vermont; a small town, just outside of Burlington, where he lives with his wife Elizabeth Skarie and their son Tyrone.

The Story of Ben & Jerry’s

Ben and Jerry had always lived within walking distance of each other but did not become friends until forcefully joined together by a gym class teacher for their lack of ability in class. After separating to go to different colleges, Ben and Jerry reunited to put into practise the business dreams they shared.

Initially Ben and Jerry considered opening a bagel shop, but eventually decided that ice cream was the way forwards – a gap in the market – and began searching for a suitable ice cream parlour to set up shop.

After enrolling in a $5 ice cream making course in 1978, the pair found their first scoop shop in Burlington, Vermont. It was here that the pair made their first chocolate chip cookie dough batch, after an anonymous customer left a note on the menu board.

The initial parlour has since been demolished to make a parking lot. But it remains a location close to the hearts of all American dreamers and the pair keep up their tradition of ‘Free Cone Day’ after every one-year anniversary as a nod to exciting beginnings.

Benjamin Cohen and Jerry Greenfield

As business grew, the pair grew bolder and Ben and Jerry spent their earnings on renting a space in an old spool and bobbin mill. At the mill they began to pack in pints of ice cream, which were then distributed out to Mom & Pop grocery stores along Ben’s restaurant routes.

The successes they made in this distribution lead to their first franchise in Shelburne 1981; quite a development considering the pair had, on paper, no business skills or qualifications.

But the pair didn’t stop there. As the years rolled on they opened up more shops, made more flavours and began to collaborate with charitable organisations and foundations; the first of which gave 7.5% of profits to fund community projects in Vermont.

But it wasn’t all business that got them the title of “U.S Small Business Persons of the Year” in 1999; it was their creativity in the way in which they went about their business.

No other ice cream business rode a Cowmobile around the US in order to give out free scoops to their people. No other ice cream business had ever thought to name their ice cream (Cherry Garcia, 1987) after a rock legend.

And even after gaining this title, they used the influence to come out against the world issues that bothered them from bovine growth hormones to environmental issues to children in need.

In the 90’s Ben and Jerry’s  remodelled their packaging and hit the UK – where they had the same effect – with new flavours (Phish food and no Cholesterol sorbets), a website and a Board of Directors. Although both Ben and Jerry are getting older, they continue to expand the business they love so much. And the most amazing thing about this world-famous business is that it spawned from the most unlikely of sources.

Wrote by Aimee Hall   –   Follow us   –   Add Your Comment Below!