Get the real scoop on Ben & Jerry’s at LU
Lamar University’s College of Business will host Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., in the Lamar University Academic Lecture Series, Feb. 17. Greenfield and long-time friend and business partner Ben Cohen are the men behind one of the most talked-about and least controversial success stories in America. Together, they built a storefront venture into a $300-million ice cream empire by making social responsibility and creative management strengths instead of weaknesses.
Greenfield will share “An Evening of Entrepreneurial Spirit, Social Responsibility & Radical Business Philosophy” in the free public lecture at 7 p.m. in the Lamar University Theatre.
With his best seller, Ben & Jerry’s Double-Dip: Lead with Your Values and Make Money, Too (coauthored with Cohen), Greenfield created both a nuts-and-bolts guidebook to the promise and pitfalls of “values-led” business and an inspiring wake-up call about the growing international influence of the “socially conscience” or “mission-driven” corporation.
Bringing all of this to life at the lectern, Greenfield will deliver a rousing tribute to America’s entrepreneurial spirit, full of anecdotes and radical business philosophy. The presentation also addresses the great sense of fun that is the company’s hallmark, illustrated with the serving of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for the entire audience.
Greenfield was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., four days before his future business partner Cohen. He grew up and went to school in Merrick, Long Island. There he first met Cohen in junior high school, and the two have remained close friends ever since. Greenfield graduated from high school with a National Merit Scholarship under his belt and enrolled at Oberlin College to study pre-med.
At Oberlin, Greenfield got his first taste of the ice cream industry when he took a job as a scooper in the college cafeteria. After graduation, he worked as a lab technician in New York and lived with his school buddy Cohen in an apartment on East 10th Street. In 1977, with Greenfield thoroughly sick of his occupation as lab tech, the two friends decided to fulfill a dream they both shared: running a food business together. The two eventually settled on ice cream and, after a bit of research (and a $5 Penn State correspondence course in ice cream making), opened Ben & Jerry’s Homemade ice cream parlor in Burlington, Vt., in May 1978.
The two soon became known throughout Vermont for their rich, unusual flavors and community-oriented approach to business.
They sponsored a Fall Down Festival and a free outdoor movie festival and celebrated their anniversaries with a Free Cone Day.
Greenfield began by making all the ice cream, but as the company expanded into new markets, he soon found himself handling everything from distribution to orientation to employee motivation.
Today a model for American business success, Greenfield and Cohen have been recognized for fostering their company’s commitment to social responsibility by the Council on Economic Priorities (which awarded them the Corporate Giving Award in 1988 for donating 7.5 percent of their pre-tax profits to non-profit organizations through The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation), and by the U.S. Small Business Administration (which named them U.S. Small Business Persons of the Year in 1988 in a White House ceremony hosted by President Reagan).
In 2000, Ben & Jerry’s was purchased by Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer products companies with more than 400 brands spanning 14 categories of home, personal care and food products, in a transaction valued at $326 million. Greenfield and Cohen continue their involvement with the company.
The Spring Academic Lecture Series is hosted by the College of Business and is paid for by student service fees.
Previous speakers in the Lamar University Academic Lecture series were Robert Godke, cloning expert; Lester Thurow, business futurist; Chuck Mangione, musician; E. L. Doctorow, novelist; Jack Horner, paleontologist; Sally Ride, astronaut; Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector; Leonard Pitts Jr., syndicated columnist; Christy Haubegger, publisher; Tony Snow, journalist; Molly Ivins, columnist; Gen. Barry McCaffrey, security analyst; Marlee Matlin, Oscar-winning actress; Stephen Dubner, author; Laurie Garrett, global health expert; Dan Pink, author; B. Gentry Lee, scientist and author; Paul Rusesabagina, humanitarian; Frank McCourt, teacher and author; and David Clark, mathematician.
For more information about the lecture, contact the College of Business at (409) 880-8603.