How I Built This Podcast: Ben & Jerry’s Ice-Cream

ben & Jerry's ice cream

We love Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. No one can resist the delicious goodness that comes in that little tub. But what’s the story behind this awesome creation? In the How I Built This podcast by NPR, it dives into the inspirational story of two Vermont hippies who decided to make some really good ice-cream.

The Story 

In the mid-1970’s, childhood friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield decided to open up a coffee shop in Burlington, Vermont. With $12,000 in investment, they made their home in a small renovated gas station and started selling. With their groovy flavors, they attracted attention right away.

They began selling their ice-cream in pints for more revenue allowing them to start distributing to grocery stores nearby. They expanded their business and finally got a parking lot by remodeling.

In the coming years, they made delicious ice-cream and even huge sundaes that made them even more popular. The ice-cream was accommodating to vegans and used non GMO milk. They were getting bigger by the second.

Behind The Scenes 

Of course when building a business from scratch, you’re going to run into some problems. Through all of Ben & Jerry’s greatness, there were pitfalls.

Borrowing some of that investment money in the beginning was tough and finding the right place to settle down had to be strategic. Burlington, Vermont was a college town and had no ice-cream shops but who would eat ice-cream in the winter? This is why they had to make customers come to them.

They were hiring their friends to work in the shop even though they didn’t have any experience. And soon, they were tired of supervising them. Also, they needed to fix their portions when selling.

There was one time where the company was selling more than it was creating. They had to make the choice of giving smaller portion sizes and bumping up the prices so they wouldn’t go out of business.

Competition came into play when they were at its peak. Haagen-Dazs, that time owned by Pillsbury, tried to stop distributors from carrying Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream. Ben & Jerry filed a lawsuit against them and also created a consumer campaign called “What The Doughboy Afraid Of”? This worked. Genius.

Their ice-cream and customer loyalty saved them, and created a negative image for Pillsbury. Government also came under play with the anitrust law and forbid Pillsbury from keeping Ben & Jerry’s out of the market.

What It Means To Run A Business 

Hearing their story on the podcast I was fascinated by how much they went through and where they are today. They are one of the best ice-cream brands, but it didn’t come as easy.

Having no entrepreneurial experience makes it challenging, and having a dream to run a business really takes some courage. It really shows us how these guys made their own dreams come true. Listening to these stories, makes me wonder what the big companies and brands we see today went through, and what hardships they overcame to serve their customers.


Also published on Medium.