Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield started it all in a renovated Burlington, Vermont gas station in 1978. With a $12,000 investment and the experience gained from a $5 class at Penn State, one of today’s most popular ice cream brands was born (Ben and Jerry’s, Our History). As awareness and popularity of the brand grew, Cohen and Greenfield started expanding their market by selling to restaurants and convenience stores in the area in 1980. Expanding their market meant they needed to expand their operation to keep up with demand. From this point on they started to expand to other facilities in the Burlington area and all across Vermont.
They started to sell to other states such as Maine where they could reach the people of Boston. In 1982 the original shop was destroyed and they moved to a new location on Cherry Street in Burlington where they are still located today. In 1990 there were nearly 100 stores across the US, and today their iconic brand can be found all over the world. Cohen and Greenfield did not enter this business with the expectation of this much success. A strong desire for independence and an unhappiness with their current jobs lead Cohen and Greenfield on a search for something more exciting. These two entrepreneurs never wanted to become businessmen, however, with the growth of the business came the responsibility of managing a franchise. Cohen and Greenfield exercised the idea of selling the business, but their sense of purpose and openness to change persuaded them into keeping the business.
Cohen and Greenfield never wanted to stray from the idea of being a positive part of their community. Cohen stated, ” We decided to adapt so we could feel proud to say we were the businessmen of Ben & Jerry’s” (Ben and Jerry’s Homemade, Inc. 2012). A large part of Cohen and Greenfield’s success was due to their creativity. The creativity of their flavours and the quality of the ingredients, such as hormone-free milk, is what initially set them apart from their competitors. For example, the introduction of the Cherry Garcia flavor in 1987 was a favorite among many and was the first ice cream named after a famous musician. Today Ben and Jerry’s is still continuing to utilize creativity when it comes to the flavours of their ice cream. A major challenge for these entrepreneurs was that often with success comes the possibility of exploitation of their employees and community.
Cohen and Greenfield vowed never to exploit their employees or their communities. They offered fair wages with a salary cap, which made sure the top paid employees could not make more than five times the amount of a lower paid employee. Also, when it came time to sell stock publicly, they sold only to the people of Vermont. Another challenge they faced was in the 1980’s. They were involved in several distribution lawsuits with a competitor. At this point Cohen and Greenfield decided to hire a CEO with more business experience.
They hired Robert Holland for the position. This hire threatened their salary cap policy, however, they felt it was necessary due to the fact the business was reaching sales of $174 million in 1997. In order to be successful in any business an entrepreneur’s priority needs to be making money.
However, an insight taken from researching this company, is that in order to be successful the customers needs to support your brand. Ben and Jerry’s put their customers first by offering a product they were proud of and servicing a the community that made it possible for them to become a multimillion dollar company. Also, the ability to adapt to a change is crucial to the success of a growing business.