Today’s “From Side Hustle to Empire” business profile starts with 2 childhood friends named Ben and Jerry.
In 1978, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield decided they wanted to start a company. At the time, Cohen was teaching crafts and Greenfield was working as a lab technician, but they wanted to start something just for fun. They briefly considered opening up a bagel shop, but quickly changed their minds after discovering the equipment needed was too expensive.
Instead, they took a $5 correspondence course in ice cream making from Pennsylvania State University, borrowed $12,000 in start-up money, and converted an old gas station into an ice cream parlor in Burlington, Vermont.
The mom-and-pop shop quickly gained a loyal following by offering unique and creatively-named flavors, and putting big, flavorful chunks in the ice cream, due to Cohen’s anosmia condition, which makes it difficult for him to smell.
By 1980, the hippie pair were delivering products to a number of local restaurants in their beat up Volkswagen station wagon. Later that year, they decided to expand even further with pint-size packing operations to small grocery and convenience stores. Shortly after they opened up a second ice cream parlor in Vermont.
Although they had reached local success, it wasn’t until Time magazine named them “the best ice cream in the world” in 1981, that they gained national attention. By 1988, they opened up their first international shops in Canada and the Caribbean.
In 2000, Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever for $326 million in cash. Although they were bought out, the company has still managed to maintain it’s folksy charm and social values with even more whimsical flavors and creative marketing ploys, including offering a free ice cream cone on their anniversary, and of course following their founders motto of: Peace, Love, Ice cream.