The Inside Scoop on Ben & Jerry's

How I Built This


There's something really comforting about a pint of Ben and Jerry's even though it's full of sugar and Saturated Fat. It somehow feels okay. You know what I mean. Maybe it's the fair trade symbol on the front or the we buy from local dairy farmers on the side of the pine or most likely seeing Ben and Jerry's photo on it because you kind of know they're good guys that their hearts in the right place and the thing is all that peace and justice and love and equality stuff that Ben and Jerry's kind of tied together with brand it's real. It wasn't a gimmick it wasn't a strategy designed to attract customers. Because it's who they are. There weren't social enterprises back when these guys started and they certainly never plan to get rich but they did do well and they did do good and their amazing story of building. One of the most beloved ice cream brands actually begins almost sixty years ago. When Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield or at the same middle school on Long Island in New York? We were both fat. This kids we were both Nerdy not not in the mainstream socially. We were the two slowest fattest kids in gym class. You know if you're running around the track and you're half left behind everybody else. There's another guy there. Besides you get pretty friendly with a guy and did you end up going to the same high school. We went to Calhoun high school. We graduated. Barry was a math league. I was a debate club. I let her to debate letter and math. You guys grow up in Long Island. You Finish High School there and did you. Where did you go Jerry? Where did you go to College Ben? Where'd you go? I went to a lot of colleges. I went to Colgate I went to skid more I went to. Nyu went to the new school. What you did the circuit I dropped out of all those are And then I finally joined the university without walls which was the most unstructured college program at the time. The idea was that the whole world was your campus. You go out there and learn whatever you wanted to learn the new comeback to this administrative body and proved that you learn it and they give you a degree and I dropped out of there too so that was my college career still too much structure. Fan and Jerry. How about you? I went to Oberlin College in Ohio. I did four years straight. I was premed and applied to and got rejected from lots of medical schools on two different occasions. So so you guys were. I mean look failures. Let's be honest. Chat is untrue. But what happened after you graduate? How did you guys reconnect? Well I I was working Out of school for disturbed. Kids in the ADIRONDACKS. I was teaching pottery there and then I decided I wanted to try to learn a try to be a real potter. You know those who can't teach those who can do well. I tried doing and Nobody would buy my pots so I I left the adirondacks. I moved to New York City in order to get some more other influences on my pottery and of course it was so expensive to live in New York the needed to spend my time making rent driving cab and so I had this apartment. Pretty grungy apartment. Jerry showed up in New York. And you moved into Ben's apartment or you just you just ended up both by did sewed this after I graduated college after my first bout of medical school rejections I moved in with Ben in New York City and then I left and went to North Carolina and after my second bout of medical skirt Jackson's I connected with Ben Again and it was at that point we decided to Put our fortunes together and Open up a little shop which yeah which turned out to be an ice cream business. You know we. We didn't exactly think of it as a business. We thought of it as a venture like. Let's do something because we're right right. That's exactly right. Let's do something for a couple of years and then after we do that. Let's do something else. We talked about becoming cross country truck drivers after we did this ice cream shop so was ice cream. The the the main idea. Was that what you were going to do from from the beginning. Because because I've read that that you weren't really sure what kind of shop be we're GONNA do. Yeah we thought we would do something with food because we'd always liked to eat and we wanted to live in a college town so we thought about picking a food that was becoming popular in big cities but had not yet been brought to a college town and at that time the foods we thought about where bagels and homemade ice cream so we we went to a used restaurant supply store to price out BAGEL making equipment. This was G in G restaurant supply. All New York Luis There Luis this old guy with a gold chain around his neck and a big cigar in his mouth and He he told us we didn't have enough money to buy BAGEL equipment. He also told us I wouldn't screw you. Life's too short so I'm curious. I'm curious were you. Because you guys were mid twenties and did you sit down like you know. Hang out late nights putting out a strategy thinking Starting to think about different ideas you could do together and you meeting in in cafes during the day or was it a candidate even. How did you even start to develop this idea? It was just much less. It was just much more sort of the old days before cafe culture right right. No we did not meet in cafes to discuss this but we did discuss it quite a bit and we researched it quite a bit. We sent away for thirty espy. A pamphlets that cost between fifteen cents and three dollars per on all the different aspects of running a business. This is just like pamphlets from the from the small business that you were available. The government had how to calculate your break even point Pretty pretty basic stuff our goal when we open. Let's to make twenty thousand dollars a year a piece which was pretty good money. I guess in in the late. Seventy s right. No it was shitty money and it took us a long time to achieve that goal when you were in New York and of thinking about what you could do. How did you settle on on an ice cream shop? At how did you settle on Burlington Vermont? Well we settled on ice cream because Bega Clinton was too expensive and we settled on Burlington Vermont because originally we settled on Saratoga Springs and we actually moved to Saratoga Springs to get ready to open up the place and We're spending most of our time working on this business plan for an ice cream shop and doing a lot of research and we took this correspondence course and how to make ice cream. We were doing the correspondence course. We got the big college text book called. Ice Cream by Williams are buckled. Wendell as Arbox. Thank you the father of modern American ice cream and Jerry could understand that very complex textbook because he had this biochemistry background from his failed medical right so there were some other ice cream shop that opened up in Saratoga Springs before us it was called Afternoon Delight. Did they make good ice cream? We left town. They opened up. Just figure we'RE NOT GONNA WE'RE NOT GONNA open up here because we didn't want to compete and we figured we we had a better chance of success if we opened up in a place where there wasn't much competition and originally we were looking for warm rural college towns in the all. The warm ones already had ice creams as we went further and further north opened and the only town left that we knew anything about was BURLINGTON. Which you know is an hour and a half south. The Canadian border. It's cold there wasn't much ice cream here. I just want to pause for a SEC. Because I think a lot of people here Ben and Jerry's and think these guys were hippies which is true and they're you know they're sort of Activists and and but but that it was just kind of slapdash but you guys really did. Actually I mean there were some method to this you researched. You actually scope out possible locations. I mean this wasn't I mean you were really actually trying to do this in a methodical way. We're very hard worker. Yeah I mean no but when you describe it your your And yes all those things happen. But the way you're describing it is putting a lot more thought and planning into it then then we actually did. I mean we. We just took one step at a time and we did whatever the next thing was in front of us. I I think it was near that time that we kind of realized that the word business is you know. Essentially a kind of a busy nece that is mostly commonsense and a lot of

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