Entrepreneurs need inspiration. Because building a business is about having a vision and the will to succeed. The businesses in this series of articles have all started small and have since become icons of the business world. In this article we feature Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.
Once in awhile a small business comes along that helps to change the way we think and feel about a product. While many small businesses have the potential to do this very few do. Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream started as a small business and while growing big managed to change forever how we think about ice cream. In doing so they built a small business to big business success story that anyone could be proud of and should be inspired by.
So how did it all start? If you can believe it Ben & Jerry’s was actually started by a couple of ex-hippie friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in Burlington, Vermont. The two friends had recently taken a correspondence course that they paid $5 for on how to make ice cream from Pennsylvania State University. Their first location was opened in a renovated gas station in 1978 with a $12,000 investment.
Once they were ready for business and they opened the doors their particular way of making ice cream took over. Besides using fresh Vermont milk and cream it was the innovative flavors that won the day. Flavors like Cherry Garcia, Chubby Hubby, and Milli Vanilla. It was during 1980 that they started to sell their ice cream in pint sized cartons. They’d managed some initial success in selling to local Vermont restaurants and felt they were ready to expand the business. So they moved into a facility that was large enough to house their packaging operation and went to work.
From that first shop that was opened in a renovated gas station with a few thousand dollars they managed to build their business into a global chain. Eventually they opened over 200 locations and planted themselves in every grocery store while reaching a quarter billion dollars in sales. Finally in 2000 Ben and Jerry sold their business to the food giant Unilever. And although they don’t have regular positions with the company anymore they are still active in a number of charitable pursuits and eco friendly endeavors. During their run to the top they were even recognized in 1988 as the U.S. Small Business Persons of the year for their efforts.
Although they no longer own the business Ben and Jerry’s name has become synonymous with some of the best ice cream in the world. Once a year the company even holds a free cone on the anniversary of the founding of the business. They have left a mark on society that they can be truly proud of. And a legacy that will outlive them both.
As entrepreneurs Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have done more than most people dream they can do. But there is no reason that your dream cannot become just as great as theirs has. Your business can become your own legacy if you want it to. Your business may start small but is entirely up to you how great it will become. You just need to look deep down inside yourself and ask how much you want your business to achieve. Once you have your answer you’ll know what you need to do.
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