March 8, 2010
AMHERST, Mass.—On Thursday, March 25, at 8 p.m. in the Freidmann Room of Amherst College’s KeefeCampusCenter, Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, will deliver a talk titled “How Ice Cream Changed the World.” The event, which is sponsored by the Schwemm Fund, is free and open to the public.
Greenfield and his longtime friend and business partner Ben Cohen are the men behind one of the most renowned success stories in American business: Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc. A co-founder of the company, Greenfield helped build what was once a storefront venture into a $300 million ice cream empire by making social responsibility and creative management strengths instead of weaknesses.
Greenfield was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., four days before his future business partner Cohen, whom he later met in junior high school. During his undergraduate years at OberlinCollege, Greenfield got his first taste of the ice cream industry when he took a job as a scooper in the college cafeteria. Upon graduating, he worked as a lab technician in New York and lived with Cohen. In 1977, the two friends decided to fulfill a dream they both shared of running a food business together. They eventually settled on ice cream, and, after a bit of research (and a $5 PennState correspondence course in ice cream-making), opened Ben & Jerry’s Homemade ice cream parlor in Burlington, Vt., in May 1978.
Greenfield and Cohen soon became known throughout Vermont for their rich, unusual flavors and community-oriented approach to business. In the early days of their business, Greenfield made 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.
Greenfield and Cohen have since been recognized for fostering their company’s commitment to social responsibility by the Council on Economic Priorities (which honored them with the Corporate Giving Award in 1988 for donating 7.5 percent of their pre-tax profits to nonprofit 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). Greenfield also authored a book, Dip: Lead with Your Values and Make Money, Too (co-authored with Cohen), which has been described as a nuts-and-bolts guidebook to the promises and pitfalls of “values-led” business and an inspiring wake-up call about the growing international influence of the “socially conscious” or “mission-driven” corporation.