Distinguished Speaker Event: Ben & Jerry’s (Honors College Participation)

 

Ben and Jerry the founders of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream came to GSU to speak about the forming of their ice cream business and the importance of social responsibility.

From their very humble beginnings of a corner store with used ice cream machines and a $12,000 initial investment they involved their community in every aspect of their business; whether it was partnering up with mom and dad shops to sell their ice cream, getting ingredients from their local community, or establishing a Vermont-only public stock offering of $126 for each stock to raise money for a new manufacturing plant, they wanted to share the success of the business with their surrounding neighbors.

Unlike other businesses Ben and Jerry measured their success by two parts; the company’s profits and their ability to improve the lives of the community. They believe strongly in social responsibility. An example of them exercising their social responsibility is them teaming up with a local bakery in New York, who hire people who are considered unemployable due to criminal past or homelessness, for brownies for their chocolate brownie ice cream flavor. They also participate in fair trade; they buy coffee directly from the Mexican farmers cutting out the middle man, and harvest Brazil nut tree for new flavors to prevent against deforestation in Brazil.  They believe having a business focused on improving people’s lives alongside with making a profit motivates their employees to work harder and also motivates their customers to be loyal.

During their presentation they spoke about when they were trying to expand their business to grocery stores Haagen Dazs (one of the biggest ice cream companies at the time) tried to block retailers from carrying Ben and Jerry’s ice cream by threating to stop providing their (Haagen Dazs) ice-cream for distribution. To retaliate Ben and Jerry made posters and bumper stickers that said “What Are the Doughboy Afraid Of?” to distribute to customers with a number they could call to find out more information about what the protest was about. They used old media such as billboards and the telephone to successfully get people’s attention, at one point they were receiving hundreds of calls a day. I found it interesting that they got so much success from using old media because nowadays the most popular and fastest way to get the attention of society is through social media such as Instagram and Twitter which eventually makes its way to TV through the news.

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