This was an article I had to write as an assignment for my Media Writing class. I already submitted, but let me know what you think.
Ben and Jerry’s Speaks to University of North Texas Students
Jerry Greenfield remembers meeting Ben Cohen, his best friend turned business partner, back in his seventh grade gym class.
“There was a pack of kids up at the front, there was Ben and me at the back. The coach was yelling at us ‘Gentleman, you have to run the mile in under seven minutes and if you don’t you have to do it again,’” Greenfield said. “Ben would yell back at the coach ‘Gee coach if I couldn’t run it under seven minutes the first time I’m certainly not going to do it under seven minutes the second time.’”
Greenfield marks this as the moment he realized he wanted to get to know this guy.
After graduation, both men went their separate ways to do their own thing. Both had little success, so they decided to come together and do something that is fun while being their own bosses. They decided to open up an ice cream shop.
The founders came to speak to University of North Texas students about entrepreneurship through the many turns that their business took. What started out as an ice cream shop in rural Vermont ended up “stumbling into the manufacturing and distribution industry” where social values also come into play.
Once their company began to really take off, Greenfield and Cohen wanted to get out, because ‘business’ takes advantage of its employees, destroys the environment, and focuses primarily on success. The men decided to change what they didn’t like about business.
“At Ben and Jerry’s we started to define it differently,” Cohen said. “We said that business is a combination of organized human energy plus money which equals power.”
When the men decided to change the way their business worked, many didn’t support them, but the men made it work anyway.
“We don’t care,” Greenfield said. “If we are going to grow our business we want to do it in a way that is consistent with our values.”
The first step in changing the way Ben and Jerry’s views business was changing the way their company viewed success.
“We called a meeting with our employees and we said that from now on the bottom line at Ben and Jerry’s is going to be in two parts,” Cohen said. “How much have we helped to improve the quality of life in the community and how much money have we made?”
Since we are an ice cream company, “we decided to factor in social values when coming up with flavors.”
With this in mind, the men ended up working with a coffee co-op in Mexico to benefit the poor farmers working there, a Native American tribe in Maine that harvested berries, a bakery in inner city New York that works to give job training and experience to those who can’t get it on their own, and the rainforest to name a few.
“We became aware that the rainforest was being destroyed, so we tried to find something we could use as an ice cream ingredient,” Cohen said. “Based on maximizing the use of Brazil nuts, we came up with Rainforest Crunch in order to help support the rain forest.”
The story of how Ben and Jerry’s became the company known today was a huge hit with the students in attendance.
Psychology and Business Marketing sophomore Payton Albert was impressed.
“I really enjoyed the transition; hearing about the startup of the business to the principles and what it stands for,” Albert said. “It’s nice to know that some businesses care for the well-being of society.”
Their story left Environmental Science sophomore Zachary Brown inspired.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the Ben and Jerry’s lecture, because they brought their life story and personality into not just their lecture, but their business,” Brown said. “I love it that they support topics that tend to be swept under the rug in politics.”
As Greenfield and Cohen ended the speech, the audience stood to their feet clapping awaiting to go to the ice cream social that followed.