Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – USA

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In today’s podcast, we meet Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams based in Columbus Ohio. Jeni is the author of the New York Times best-seller Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. With in excess of 100,000 copies in print, Jeni’s cookbook was described by the Wall Street Journal as the “homemade-ice cream-making Bible”.  In 2012, Jeni was awarded the James Beard Award, America’s most prestigious award for excellence in culinary writing and culinary education. In 2014, Jeni followed-up her first highly-successful book with, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts.

Where did this all begin? Jeni left art studies at Ohio State University, to open Scream Ice Cream in 1996 in Columbus, Ohio’s North Market. Jeni is entirely self taught, so these 4 years of learning, experimentation and direct customer feedback set the stage for her next business “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams’, which she also operated in North Market for 6 years. How did she know what she wanted to start?

As we’ll hear, Jeni is a determined and service-driven entrepreneur. She took her hobby of blending oils and perfumes, asked her customers loads of questions, learned what was working and not working and has built her fast-growing business around excellent customer service. From scratch to 150 employees, 19 outlets, an online store, product available in 2000 outlets best-selling cookery books and national coverage by the NY times and Food & Drink. Wow! There’s some real inspiration for all you wanna be food entrepreneurs in this episode. Enjoy!

Some excerpts from today’s podcast:

Let’s just start with who you are and what your brand is. Just for our listeners. You currently run a company called ‘Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams?

Jeni: Yes I do. I like how you put that: “I currently run a company”. Jeni’s is one-and-the-same with me. I have been making ice cream since 1996. This is my life. I do it every day. I have a company. It’s that old sort of entrepreneurship thing, where it just takes over everything. It’s one-and-the-same. It’s just me. I never feel like I am running a company. It’s just going in and out of life, you know.

Do you feel like you are the brand?

Jeni: Yeah. I suppose, but we also have an incredible team. I just work on this amazing team. We keep moving forward, making new discoveries and that’s what we do every day. We try and make better ice cream today than we did yesterday. We do artwork and photography to go with it and all to the other things in the machine which makes the company work: operations and making the ice creams because we don’t just come up with the ice creams, we actually make it. And we have farmers that supply us. So it’s this big community of people, who make all of these ideas happen.

What has been your professional background to date? I am curious because people who listen to this program might be people who are emulating some success stories out there. They might look at you and think: ‘Wow! How did that person start and get to the point, where they were able to begin this business?”

Jeni: I am 41 years old. I began making ice cream when I was 21. I started my first ice cream business when I was 22. So, only a few months later after I made my first ice cream in my home kitchen. So, at the time, I was studying Art History and Fine Arts in college and I was working at a French bakery…and I was also studying and thinking maybe that I would become a perfumer. I was really getting into scent and I was collecting oils and blending them. I was going to go to France and try to learn that. I do not have a Chemistry background. I didn’t realise at the time, that that’s very important for a perfumer.

So, I was in kind of a creative time in my life. Everything was open. The world was my oyster. I started making ice creams. I actually started using my essential oils that I was blending perfumes with to blend into ice creams to make edible perfumes.  That started out as a dinner-party project and also as kind of this cool idea of using scent. So I did that and realized immediately: “I need to do this”. This is going to be my business. I always knew that I would be working for myself somehow. So I started. Six months later, I convinced a friend to put up a little bit of money and to go into business with me.

We started in this tiny location in this large public indoor market; very old, here in Columbus in the middle of Ohio. I made every ice cream and helped every customer for 4 years in that business which I called: “Scream Ice Cream”. So that’s kind of my professional background: “Boots on the ground”, making ice creams, exploring the market and learning about things like flavours and ingredients and the provenance of ingredients.

Now listen to the rest of this episode, where you will learn:

  • The extent to which Jeni and her team ensure that they source the right ingredients
  • How important it is to have direct feedback from your customers
  • Why it is important to have creative instincts but to give customers what they want
  • How having a farmer’s market stall was so important for building future success
  • What lessons Jeni and her team took from a television appearance
  • How Jeni approaches customer service and why it matters so much
  • What the next few years hold for Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
  • What advice Jeni wants to give you if you are thinking of starting a food business

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Thanks to our guest… and thanks to you!

A very special thanks to today’s guest, Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams for her generosity in giving us food producers an insight into her outstanding food success story! As mentioned in the podcast, we have the privilege of giving away 5 signed copies of Jeni’s latest book! We’ll be giving you details on Facebook on how you can be in with a chance to win one of these amazing prizes. Thanks so much to Jeni’s great team including Nicholas Torres and Erin Kilhefner!

Thanks especially to you for listening to today’s podcast here on makemoneywithfood.com, home of the food entrepreneur!

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About Author

Mark Hayes - Editor

Graduating after 4 years at Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland, Mark worked in hospitality and restaurant management roles for ClubMed, Disney (in both Florida and Paris, France), Sheraton Hotels (Frankfurt, Germany) as well as management positions in restaurant chains in the UK. Mark completed an MBA in 2010 with a master's thesis focused on food franchise operations. Through interviewing food business owners, franchise-holders and food-vendors, Mark found that he really enjoyed finding out exactly what compels people to start food businesses and what it is they do to make them profitable and rewarding. In recent years, Mark has also run a successful farmer's market business with his parents, both of whom are passionate 'foodies'. From sourcing ingredients to making food by hand, packaging it, pricing it and selling it in a competitive marketplace, Mark wants to help you to make your food startup a success.