Successful Entrepreneurs

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

Written by Richard San Juan for Gaebler Ventures

Ice cream has been a long-time favorite of American culture. It is very popular not only with kids, but adults as well. Before, ice cream was usually plain and came in much less flavors. That all changed when Ben & Jerry's entered the ice cream market in 1978. Their brand created unique flavors like Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey.

Sometimes life throws you a curveball.

Not everything in life goes as planned. That is kind of what happened with Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. What you do with it, however, determines the difference between success and failure. Ben and Jerry knew each other from the high school days in New York.

When it was time to go college, Cohen enrolled in a college in the Northeast. Unfortunately, college did not give him any inspiration at all and left college soon after enrolling. Ben than began taking various miscellaneous classes of interests. Such interests included pottery and jewelry making. During that time, Ben Cohen landed unusual jobs since he needed work.

Jerry Greenfield, on the other hand, was more of a traditionalist and hoped to become a doctor someday. He studied pre-medicine at Oberlin College but did not gain admittance when he applied to medical schools. Disappointed, Jerry moved back to his hometown and took a job as a lab technician that involved grinding insides of cows in test tubes for a research company.

He attempted to apply to medical schools one more time, but unfortunately was rejected once again. Greenfield then moved to North Carolina where he met his wife. After living there for a couple years, he returned to New York where he reunited with Ben Cohen again.

Both were nearing their 30s and were still not satisfied where their career paths have taken them. They decided that going to the food business together would be a good idea. At first, they were not sure exactly what type of food. However, there was one food that both had experience in handling earlier in their lives: ice cream.

Ben had driven ice cream trucks before in high school and during his enrollment into miscellaneous pottery classes to earn money. Jerry, while attending college at Oberlin, worked as an ice cream scooper in the school's cafeteria. Having decided on the specific food enterprise they wanted be involved with, both of them signed up for a $5 correspondence course that detailed ice cream making and management from Penn State. Upon completion of the course, they opened up their first ice cream store in Vermont.

Their first ice cream store became very popular in the community due to the high quality ice cream and creative mix of flavors. To express their gratitude to the community for supporting their first store, Ben and Jerry began hosting a free film festival and giving away free scoops on the anniversary of the store opening. It was fun for Ben and Jerry since they found their passion in ice cream selling.

Soon after that, they began selling to the local grocery stores. The business began expanding significantly after 1981 and by 1987; annual sales were at $32 million. As their ice cream business began to have more of a financial clout, Ben and Jerry were able to pursue environmental-conscious missions, which was a definite characteristic of their brand. In summary, life of an entrepreneur is sometimes filled with valleys and peaks.

The key to being successful is not to wallow in the valleys out of self-pity but to be persistent in working your way up to the peaks.

Richard San Juan is currently pursuing an MBA degree with an emphasis in Finance from DePaul University in Chicago. He is particularly interested in writing about business news and strategies.

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