I started Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams because…

I thought ice creams could be better and more interesting. That, and I always joke that I can’t work for other people – I have an unmanageable personality!

I knew I was onto something with Jeni’s when…

I tasted the first ice cream I ever made back in 1996—it was cayenne and milk chocolate. I served it at a party one evening and my guests went crazy exclaiming, “It’s hot! It’s cold!” The sky opened up and I could see my whole life in front of me.

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What I wish I knew when starting Jeni’s…

Nothing. It’s been excruciatingly difficult. A roller coaster, yes. But these are lessons I had to learn the hard way because I wasn’t going to learn them any other way. This kind of work is not for everybody. It’s not easy, and it’s not supposed to be. That’s why we – entrepreneurs –are so unique in the world.

Being a B-Corp is important to Jeni’s because…

We’ve always just done what felt like the right thing to do—way before being a B-Corp was a trendy thing. Getting this difficult certification helps show the world that we mean it, and it’s not just a marketing tactic. It’s a way to express what we’ve always been doing, like using Direct Trade and Fair Trade ingredients. It is a philosophy deeply engrained in the way we work.

How we select growing, producing and supplying partners…

We believe we should buy ingredients from where they grow best, like grass-grazed milk from Northeast Ohio, or vanilla beans from Uganda. We seek out people we like, who think entrepreneurially, and who want to grow with us. We value buying directly from people we know and have relationships with over simply buying local to say “it’s local.” We’ve built our company as a community – makers, growers, producers, suppliers, our customers – and that is what makes us stronger and more interesting.

Ways Jeni’s has evolved over the years…

I studied art. And I apply that to business. We are never finished growing, changing and exploring. We want to make ice cream the way Buddy Holly made music. Each collection is unique, each year has its themes and then we move on.

I identify cities to open scoop shops in by…

Some connection to the place or the people there, usually. But we’ve also been shipping ice cream for more than 10 years so we have these pockets of customers all over the country. We can look at that, too. From there we try to find neighborhoods that have a little of everything: entertainment, food, and people who actually live there.

Best advice for growing your wholesale business…

Get your game before you start. Have a strategy.

Top 5 tips for understanding FDA regulations…

  1. Hire an expert.
  2. Go after food safety like it’s the first thing you do in business. We are a food safety company that makes ice cream.
  3. Understand that we are all on the same side.
  4. Make sure you have a regulatory manager and an attorney who can help make sure you are following all the laws and rules.
  5. When in doubt refer to tip #1.

My typical day consists of…

Ice cream testing, making and recipe writing. Plus training! Also, art direction and often travel to speak to our team or other communities.

 

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How I am inspired to create new flavors…

I have a wild imagination and want to go deep with whatever I am interested in right now. This helps me create new flavors. Also, museums, books, art, music—all fit into ice cream somehow.

E-commerce is important to our business because…

It helps us get our ice cream in front of a lot of people who we otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. It is also our biggest store – it’s a wonderful channel.

Best lessons learned while writing my cookbooks…

Don’t hurry. Take your time. Remember your reader always.

The skill that didn’t always come natural to me as an entrepreneur…

Talking to people. Giving speeches has never been easy for me. I am always in awe of a good speaker. But I don’t think I’ve ever been able to gather my thesis into a ball, take it on stage, and toss it out to people in an engaging way. It’s not at all natural to me, which just means I have to work harder at it and less hard at other things that come more naturally to me, like writing.

Next year Jeni’s will…

Make a flavor so cool it deserves a trademark. Which is something we don’t usually do. At least we’re working on it.

My favorite ice cream flavor is…

Our lemon yogurt because it’s so tart and creamy and simple.