Live From The HIBT Summit: Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
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Laugh cry grab some how I built this swag and come say hi to me and the team so I really hope to see you in either or maybe both San Francisco and Seattle March Twenty sixth and twenty seventh for tickets visit. Npr PRESENTS DOT Org. Hey everyone so today. We've got another one of my conversations from the how I built this summit. That happened last October in San Francisco. Jedi Britain Bauer has spent the past eight years perfecting her signature line of ice cream flavors which include fluffer nutter pie goat cheese and Cherry and my personal favorites bramble very crisp and biscuits and peaches and these are just a few of the unusual flavors. You'll find Jenny. Splendid ice creams all began at a Columbus Ohio. Farmers Market Back in two thousand two today. Jenny's is a staple at whole foods and there are nearly forty scoop shops across the United States in my life conversation onstage. I asked Jenny about staying true to herself. And how her ice cream can be that amazingly good without any egg yolks. I WanNa talk to you about a word. That comes up a lot and I have really mixed feelings about this word and I and I hope some of you do too which is authenticity. We hear this word a lot. Be Authentic Bureau authentic self your true self and one of the really cool things about your story that are members that in the early days when you had your first version of. What would become Jenny? Splendid later on you used to wear like torn jeans and you had green and purple hair and at a certain point you realize that actually wasn't working that something about your look and the aesthetic of what you were selling wasn't right and you decided to change. You took the diet of your hair. You started wearing all white. You sort of looked like a like a pharmacist. And your ice cream shop here. It became kind of reflected that clean aesthetic. And I'm wondering I mean you know you could say well Jenny. You know you weren't being your authentic self at that time. But of course I absolutely was it absolutely was I realized that I was communicating through what I was wearing and it was it was. It was goof you restore outfits. I mean. They're really cute. I had pink hair for a long time but I wasn't conveying. That sort of who I think I felt like on the inside honestly and and what. I thought that I wanted from my ice cream maker. You know the other thing was that it scream my first day scream shop. I thought that I could be this ice cream artiste and like everybody would be so excited about whatever. I was doing today that they would. Just you know. Come down and figure and stand in line and you know what's the. Great Jenny have today and I was really thinking more like an artist or a wannabe artist. So I quit art school to make ice cream then and when I got to Jenny's in two thousand into when I open Jenny's I I took all emphasis off of me on purpose. I had learned the lesson that no one comes to a business for whatever I'm making today. I don't go to businesses for that. I go to a business for what I had the last time I was there. Not for some new thing. I might change my mind when I get there. And so once I learned that I knew that I had to create this signature line that everybody knew about. And that was like credible in the middle of the night and you had to have it the next day and then I could play around with other stuff and then those could move onto the signature list if they were good enough if people loved them enough and so that was part of that. Take the emphasis off me. Ron Customers still add my passion to this but not make it about me anymore. Make it about other people and I knew what people love because they knew what they loved it. Scream when Miami. I shop but I didn't always have that so that constant disappointment is not a very good way to run a business. Do you do sort of agree with me? This idea of authenticity is being complicated. Because you know we get is be your yourself your authentic self and not. All of us know how to do that or what that actually means. Yeah it is. It's a complex thing right now especially when you talk about companies and brands building authenticity and starting with into though. Because what does that actually mean? That's something that you can't make you have to do. And it takes a long time and I think that so many times for me anyway often to city. It's a trust for yourself. And it's not trusting that you'll never make mistakes as trusting that you will but you'll get yourself out of trouble and I think the authenticity almost from that place of trust for yourself. You know because the people in the company that we find the most authentic are the ones that are making mistakes sometimes or that are trying things that are pushing themselves so I want to own a sort of a shift gears. A little bit and ask you about perfectionism because for those who know about your company in about you. You're a perfectionist. I mean you obsess over ice cream. In a way that few people obsess over any products right. I mean we start with what the cows eat and that every year. Our ice cream recipes change. I mean right. Now we're talking about extended hold times for pasteurization and how that will impact stability. We don't use stabilizes modifiers corn Syrup high-fructose Corn Zip and a whole bunch of other ingredients. That are very typical and ice cream or even a yolks. But we figured out that that that there's various ways to make milk proteins. Act that way and it's really fun and it's extremely delicious but it's all still an experiment and it's a big challenge. I think it's one of the reasons that twenty four years in. I'm still extremely excited about what we can do this year. And what we're going to try this year is going to impact what we're GONNA DO. Next year started to interrupt. I can get like really excited about this. I know me too cheap because I've noticed that there are no egg yolks. Oh the sort of I guess unless you want it to be unless you want there to be lake an Eggnog or something like that but I mean even like the peaches you buy for the Peach Cobbler or the cherries you use for the goat cheese you source it in an obsessive way. The cows are raised on well. And we're patient so for me. I always serve the people and so it starts building a relationship with a with a grower or producer and then we can work out quality together because we know that that's the way I mean. That's how you get the best stuff so sometimes it can take years to figure out how you know which. Which kind of strawberries grow in Ohio? And how can we extend that season by a few weeks so we have time to process them all as they come in? There's all sorts of cool stuff that you can do. But you really have to have a good relationship with your farmers and growers and your producers like Whiskey. You know there's too much alcohol and the whiskey. We couldn't add enough to ice cream. You know and still abide by the law. So we work with our whiskey distiller to create a lower alcohol whisky so we can add a Lotta whiskey to those kinds of things. All are based on relationships. I mean but with that level of obsessive nece right. You're paying a premium for really high quality products. Also means that your ice cream's more expensive pine of Jennings's expensive compared to pine another brand right. It's a very dense. There's a lot of ice cream. It's packed in there. That's really high quality stuff I mean. Presumably you your company can make a lot more money. If the pints were two dollars cheaper Yeah but I think that for us. That passionate isn't growing as a community. That sort of community spirited business and making something truly beautiful that we're all really proud of I mean in our stores. We have thirty nine stores. And we have the Pete. The summer we had eighteen hundred team members in the stores. And I think it's because mostly because those people who work in our stores are so proud of what we do that over the counter. It's of a natural naturally. Good at Service. Because they're just proud of all of these back details that we will never probably be able to convey all of them over the counter but they know that like it's that detail and the and the intention behind it that everyone feels and it's this crazy magic I mean do you think that there is a an argument to be made that you should pursue perfection that you should pursue an uncompromising just absolutely no cutting corners at all. I mean or it's like having a garden I mean sometimes you're GonNa have a very lush beautiful area and these going to get a little bit Withered hopefully nothing dies. But that's what you're doing. You're moving your resources around me. Ultimately we only have a limited amount of resources that we get to do this with and so you're constantly shifting. Yeah I mean you are in an entered a crowded space lotte ice cream makers a lot of people here working on baby clothes and different products. Where there's you know. There's a lot of competition I mean. How do you really breakthrough in a in a crowded market time? I mean it's one person at a time. It's all on street level. It's time and that starts to build sort of mentality of business because you get to create. I didn't know how to make ice cream. I know now when we were younger. And let's say we have taken a whole bunch of money early and I don't think anybody would have given it to a but let's just say we have done that. I wouldn't have had the time to work out these details and the things that I now know about ice cream. I need it all this time. I spent at least eight years boots on the ground just making ice cream and serving it before ever started growing and that time is everything for me because I learned all of that the art. I didn't study Acecomm Chemistry and honestly I failed every class I took and Matt Ice Cream is math so I had to learn all that stuff and for us. That's that's what's worked and I think in ice cream when we look at what's happening in American ice cream for the last one hundred years there was like a new sort of great American ice cream concept every like ten years and then it kind of stopped at Ben and Jerry's I mean there's been a couple of other things that sort of were okay but not great and now we're in another ice cream moment and I think it's because we've really devoted this lake time to to building it into a real. I mean a community that means something and it doesn't just mean something on paper. It feels a certain way and I think that like Ben and Jerry's. I think that they did that it was. It was a moment in American history. Every industry and every business is so different. But I just don't think that you can just create an ice cream shop and just bounce under the market. It's just too complex of of an industry and we've seen so many come and go over the years. It's very hard. Dairy is a complex industry. Of course we always think everybody else's businesses are so much easier than ours. I'm like I'm not doing dairy again. It's been amazing and it's been a joy and I'm an absolute evangelist for dairy farmers. I'm curious to get your your take on growth right because we we sort of. Were Fed this mantra? That growth is good and growth is important but there are also consequences when it comes to growth and challenges so for a company like yours. It means you've got a source more stuff. It means you got to build more shops. It could mean that you lose control the quality as you have more stores and more shops I think most of your sales are still online and in stores right. Beat people buying pints at whole foods and other places rather than the scoop shops. But I mean. How important is explosive? Growth I mean. Do you want to be like Baskin Robbins? I mean I love growing so much. I like the challenge of of business and I love that. I don't think that my company would ever grow just because of growth. I don't think anyone in our company is motivated by that. I think it's been really fun to grow where people are buying our ice cream and then be able to offer them servicemen various service driven as a person. It's very personal to me. And so being able to open shops this really important to me in places even when we're selling a lot of ice cream in whole foods for instance to be able to open shop in that community where we know people know about us and loves them then. We can offer that sort of service in that moment and do that. Ice Cream is a really lovely moment. A place that you can get to know somebody else better and it's just a special thing. So Gosh I have so many thoughts on this because I think that you can get better as you grow and that's been my experience when we were really small and there's this sort of glow around the sort of mom and pop sort of thing. I think especially in ice cream but when we were small we were. We were really limited by what we could buy. I mean we had to do an ice cream makes you couldn't get a company to help us. We couldn't get the dairy that we wanted to. We couldn't get the milk that we we wanted and we knew we were surrounded by these farms. We couldn't get them outside of the system co mingled with other milk. Even our strawberry grower now gross fields for us. And he's got his brother involved in the other guy down the street you know it was like what flats at a time or whatever and so we really couldn't do much planning and then sometimes you wouldn't have enough or whatever so you actually like up to this point we've gotten so much better as we've grown in terms of ice cream quality indefinitely in terms of service and we have so much more to do and it takes resources to do it as you know. The theme of the summit this year is kindness and clever. I love that so much and I know that there's been many examples of that on your journey. Can you share just just one example of of somebody who is kind or collaborative or just? Who helped you when you started and how that enabled you to get here. I don't know how many of you are from smaller cities like me. I'm from Columbus Ohio Columbus Ohio. Yeah I love I love Columbus very much and my whole story is about asking for help my whole story. I mean I started with. I always say no research from nothing. We all have our brain baron buds and that's literally like how we started the company But that community came out. I think once I started to prove myself so it wasn't immediate but once I started to prove that I was in it and that I would care it and that I was going to do this and it was going to be for a long time. The community came out in a big way. And at that point you know it becomes this love fest like now. I'm super committed. I want to get back to the community. They're supporting me. And I in a way love these sort of smaller cities and other cities as well where the whole city can kind of rally around a few businesses and companies that they love whereas sometimes you get lost in a bigger size other advantages of being in a big city with a with a new company that that has been amazing. And I just put that credit back on Columbus and I love it to this day and we'll never leave for that reason. I mean I travel a lot but I always come back home because that's my place on. Earth Jeni Bauer founder of Ginny. Thank you thank you. That's Jenny. Britain Bauer founder of Jenny. Splendid Ice Creams Ginny. Join me live on stage at the how I built this summit which happened in October at Yearbook Buena Center for the Arts and San Francisco will have more of my conversations from the summit over the next few weeks. Keep CHECKING FOR UPDATES. Thanks TO CANDICE LAMB. Who Produce this episode and Ramtane Air Blue? Who wrote the Music Guy? Roz and listening to how I built this this is NPR.