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Ben ‘ Jerry’s co-founder shares sweet history with BC students

About 150 Boston College students enjoyed free Cherry Garcia ice cream as the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, Jerry Greenfield, talked about the founding of the ice cream company and the importance of social activism to its history on Wednesday night.

The event was part of BC’s first annual BCisGreen week, a week dedicated to sustainability, BC’s Undergraduate Government Environmental Issues Co-Director Joe DeCarle said.

UGBC President Chris Denice said the week’s festivities included nightly events to promote environmental awareness.

While Greenfield and fellow co-founder Ben Cohen ‘have no authority or responsibility,’ over the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company, they can still offer a lot to the community, Greenfield said. Their company was bought by Unilever Global, which also owns Rag’uacute; and Slim-Fast, in 2000.

Greenfield and Cohen have been friends since their junior high days in Long Island, N.Y. Cohen attended a number of colleges but never earned a degree while Greenfield completed his undergraduate degree at Oberlin College, and failed to get into medical school after applying to at least 20, Greenfield said.

The friends worked odd jobs after college until they decided to follow their dream and open an ice cream shop. They originally thought they’d open their shop in a small, warm weather college town, but later,in a smart business move, decided otherwise. ‘We discarded the idea of warmth and decided on Burlington, Vermont because there were no ice cream shops there,’ Greenfield said.

At 26 years old, with about $12,000 in their pockets, they opened their ice cream shop in May 1978, Greenfield said.’

After selling ice cream exclusively from their shop, they ‘stumbled into ice cream distribution,’ Greenfield said. When Greenfield and Cohen met with distributors, they found out that The Pillsbury Company and H’auml;agen-Dazs had threatened to stop supplying their products to distributors if they began distributing the Vermont ice cream.

Greenfield remembered when Cohen said, ‘I can’t believe that Pillsbury and H’auml;agen-Dazs are afraid of little Ben & Jerry’s from Vermont.’

In response to the threats, Cohen and Greenfield flew banners over Boston encouraging people to ‘help two hippies take down the corporate giant,’ as a part of their ‘What is the Doughboy Afraid Of?’ campaign in 1984, Greenfield said. Eventually, Pillsbury and H’auml;agen-Dazs allowed Ben & Jerry’s to have their ice cream distributed.

Greenfield said after they won the right to distribute their product, the small ice cream shop transformed into a multi-million dollar business.

When Greenfield and Cohen ‘had become business men’ they did not like it, Greenfield said. The business partners began selling stocks to their neighbors in Vt. for just over $1 per share and founded the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, which donates 7.5 percent of the company’s revenue to charity, Greenfield said.

‘We wanted to give away as much money as possible,’ Greenfield said. ‘Business is the most powerful force in society today . . . and if business is the most powerful force, and the people who run them are good people, why don’t they help out more?’

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  1. just checking this is the BU student newspaper right?