Yes, you read that right. The celebrated ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s has an inspiring story that didn’t begin with ice cream at all!
There is so much to learn from Ben & Jerry’s story. Here’s the behind the scenes look at how it all got started.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were childhood friends living in New York. Ben Cohen was a failed artist who eventually dropped out of studies after attending several colleges. He finally settled down as a crafts teacher for children in New York who were emotionally disturbed. Jerry Greenfield also tasted failure as a lab technician. He failed to get into medical school even after three attempts.
The idea has its root in their high school years when Ben used to drive an ice cream truck. Even Jerry worked as an ice cream scooper in the Oberlin College cafeteria during one of his attempts to study medicine. The two friends who departed during their college days, reunited after many years in New York. After discussing their individual failed endeavors, they both decided to venture into a food business.
Ben and Jerry initially thought of making bagels. However, they realized that the equipment they needed was too expensive and they couldn’t come up with the cash for such a large investment. Instead, they changed their plan and settled on making ice creams.
To prepare, Ben and Jerry invested $5 in an ice-cream making correspondence course at the Pennsylvania State University in 1978. The duo converted an old gas station into an ice cream parlor in Burlington, Vermont after noticing that the college town had no other ice cream parlors to compete with.
That same year in 1978, they opened “Ben & Jerry’s homemade” in the renovated gas station with a total investment of $12,000 out of which $4,000 was borrowed.
The creative flavors of their rich ice cream soon began to win hearts. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream became a community favorite. They even celebrated their first anniversary in 1979 with the first-ever free-cone day. The shop gave away free scoops and cones throughout the day and the tradition continues to this day in all Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shops.
The success followed with the making of pints in 1980 to be sold to local grocers. Soon they decided to expand their business and in 1981 the duo opened their first franchise scoop shop at Shelburne, Vermont.
The 1980s saw the unveiling of some popular signature flavors of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The duo also entered into a deal with a Boston distribution company. There has been no looking back since then. Today, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is a globally renowned ice cream brand.
Business lessons from Ben & Jerry’s story
The story of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is definitely an inspiring one. It can be a role model for the many struggles you face on a regular basis. Here are some lessons from Ben and Jerry’s story that you can apply to your business.
1. Be open to new opportunities: Ben and Jerry didn’t stop when their initial plan to start a bagel shop fell through. Instead, they pivoted and took action on what they could with the resources they had available and it turned out better than they could have ever imagined.
2. Make a great product: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is a great product that their true fans love. They have unique flavors that are well formulated to keep their brand the one fans reach for in the freezer case over all of the options available today.
3. Use Creativity: Both Ben and Jerry have devoted their heart and soul to the business. They have been focused on staying consistently creative to keep the business afloat. During the winter when the demand for ice creams dropped dramatically, they devised a plan to keep selling their products. Ben and Jerry reduced the price based on the weather. The more the temperature dropped, the price of the cones did too!
4. Work hard: There is no substitute for hard work and dedication. Ben and Jerry already had a basic knowledge about ice creams from their previous jobs. However, they wanted to gain expertise and in-depth knowledge of their product and hence enrolled in a correspondence course. Despite the initial success, they worked in the trenches for years to take the business where it is now.
I want you to have the same level of smashing success as Ben and Jerry! Take action and apply the lessons learned above in your business. You’ll be shocked at the results.
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