Lessons in Entrepreneurship from Ben and Jerry’s

I’ve been really enjoying Guy Raz’s excellent How I Built This podcast on NPR. When I was listening to an episode with Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream fame, I noticed a few lessons that today’s entrepreneurs could learn.

  1. When Ben and Jerry were picking the site for their first ice cream shop, they stood out on street corners with handheld Tally Counters to count foot traffic. This is an excellent Lean Startup-style experiment, and one that only requires hustle and work (and a tally counter). They were making cheap, practical, data-driven decisions, even at a very early stage in their company.
  2. They started with only $8,000 of invested startup capital. And they taught themselves about making ice cream via a correspondence course.
  3. When Ben and Jerry wrote their first business plan for funding, they didn’t know what they were doing. They used a business plan from a pizza restaurant to guide them. When they were finished running their projections, they realized that they would have to set higher sales targets to stay in business. So they set higher sales targets and did what it took to reach them. This is an EXCELLENT example of the value to be gained from planning and projections. This is exactly the kind of insights that you should surface while you’re doing planning and business modeling.

If you want to read more about the Ben and Jerry’s story, you can check out the classic, “Ben & Jerry’s: The Inside Scoop: How Two Real Guys Built a Business with a Social Conscience and a Sense of Humor“:



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