We All Scream for Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

On Monday, September 18th, Bucknell students were graced with the presence of the ice cream man himself: Jerry Greenfield. Co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Holdings, Greenfield discussed the ins and out of his famous dessert business. Whether you're a Chocolate Fudge Brownie fan or a Half Baked enthusiast, Jerry's lecture in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts left Bucknellians with a better understanding about the importance of a business model built on enriching and giving back to the community.

When they were just teenagers, Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen met in junior high school gym class and became fast friends. As they grew up and went on to pursue degrees and careers in various fields, they remained in close contact with one another. Yet, it wasn't until the two men both found themselves in jobs that didn't stimulate their creative juices and social abilities that they thought to come back together as business partners.

Thinking back to their days as the dynamic duo in junior high school, Ben and Jerry realized that they bonded over a love of food and especially, dessert. Wanting to be their own bosses and do something fun, Ben and Jerry decided to go into the ice-cream business together. With a business partnership established, a product targeted, Ben and Jerry were ready to get started. Only one problem: neither of them knew anything about ice cream! So with little money in their pocket, the two set out to Penn State to take a course focused on all things ice cream for just five dollars.  

After Ben and Jerry had a basis of knowledge, they set out for the college town of Burlington, Vermont to sell ice-cream cones in every season. After an incredibly successful first summer of sales at the gas station they fixed up into an inviting ice cream store, Ben and Jerry felt like they had finally found their passion in life. Yet, as the snow began to fall and temperatures dropped to negative temperatures in Vermont, their dream seemed to be further on the horizon than they had thought.

In order to continue pursuing a career in the ice cream business even in the cold winter months, Greenfield and Cohen thought of a different strategy. Loading up an old pick-up truck, Ben would get behind the wheel to deliver cartons of delicious ice cream to local restaurants and businesses. And like that, business began to boom once again! Yet, with this surge in sales came the fears of larger companies such as Haagen-Dazs ice cream that little old Ben and Jerry's was going to steal their thunder and undercut their business. But one of the largest dessert vendors was not going to scare Ben and Jerry away from continuing to grow their ice-cream venture. To fight back against Pillsbury who had recently bought out Haagen-Dazs, they began a campaign entitled: "What's the doughboy afraid of?"

While Ben and Jerry's movement against Pillsbury off to a successful start, they quickly began to realize that they were becoming businessman, not the passionate salesmen they used to be. Greenfield and Cohen decided they didn't want to be a part of the business world anymore and be just another company that clogged the economic machine of corporate America.

Instead of simply throwing in the towel, Ben and Jerry didn't abandon their ice cream venture, but they changed the way they were going to run their business. Going back to traditional values, Greenfield and Cohen brought the idea of business spiritually to Ben & Jerry's. By giving back to the community through various sales and using ingredients from small local businesses, they began to build a business that focused on community rather than the economy.

Throughout Jerry's lecture, it became clear that persistence and passion were the driving forces behind the start of one of the largest ice cream business in the world. Bucknell students were left with a new business perspective, as well as a full stomach with free Ben & Jerry samples after the talk. Thanks Jerry for showing us that the sweetest things in life are also about involving and giving back to society!