By; George Dunlap, 1/29/2020. We at C. Nelson Mfg., Co, have had the pleasure to serve Jeni’s for many years. Her passion for, making wonderful ice creams, providing enhanced personal customer service, and an overall engaging retail experience, is the future of the retail ice cream industry’s competitive focus.
Purpose At Work: How Jeni’s Ice Cream Builds An Impactful Culture Around Its People
Companies that put people and purpose first build brand communities and consumer loyalty. In today’s crowded business environment it’s critical to distinguish yourself from the competition. While delivering quality products will always be important, consumers are also looking to support brands that stand for causes they believe in.
An excellent example of a company building community around shared values is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. The Certified B-Corp prioritizes forming relationships with suppliers, team members, local nonprofits and customers. I had the pleasure of speaking with founder Jeni Britton Bauer about how she leads with purpose. Here’s our discussion.
Simon Mainwaring: Let’s start with how you went about creating a special product.
Jeni Britton Bauer: I quit art school to make ice cream. I was working in art, ice cream and pastry. It was all crossing over for me. Once I figured that out, I had to start a little ice cream shop.
After begging my friends for some cash and buying a few things, the only place I could start up was in a farmer’s market. I was in that farmer’s market with my prototype Jeni’s, which was called Scream. That was 1996 to 2000. Two years later I opened Jeni’s in the same place.
Everything I learned about how to make really good ice cream came from talking to the farmers. I started getting to know them, understanding seasonality, understanding their world, understanding how much they want to get paid for these things. Are they going to sell me strawberries or would they rather go to the farmer’s market and get a better price?
Most of the hours at the market weren’t busy. The merchants would encourage each other and hold each other accountable. We became like a family. The idea of community comes from that. A rising tide can lift all ships. We also have to pull others up with us. Standards are really important. Trust is important.
I was in the market making ice cream every day for 10 years. I served it over the counter. I listened to feedback. My standards became merged with what our customers were expecting. Where did it come from? Who made it? How? What’s the story behind this? To this day, that’s who we are. Every initiative we’ve got is directly tied to that time in that market.
Mainwaring: So there’s something about the integrity of that process that led you to create this special product?
Britton Bauer: You slowly build your own world because you learn as you go. It’s a different way of doing it. But people sometimes forget that boots on the ground experience. It’s where you learn everything. It becomes a foundation.
People ask me who my entrepreneur idol is. Willy Wonka. That Willy Wonka style entrepreneurship suits me. Some people go the sort of Stanford grad route. That can be great in its own way too. It’s just not me.
Mainwaring: Tell me the journey to becoming a B Corp. How did that come about?
Britton Bauer: We thought, “We’re already doing that. Let’s just apply and see what happens.” We got B Corp status in 2013.
That was great because some new copycat competitors were coming into the market. We have high integrity. We would never say something is grass pastured if it wasn’t. But people who copy your business model and try to make it look like you may not have that same integrity.
The B Corp status allowed us to put a stamp on it. We went through the audit process to say that we actually are paying a living wage. We actually are buying things directly from people. We’re here to get better at that over time with B Lab’s help and guidance. That is awesome.
We don’t really use B Corp in our marketing. I actually think it takes away from the idea that we’re here for absolute deliciousness. If people want to know what’s behind the brand, the information is there.Continue reading