Iconic entrepreneur to deliver address at Mesa State event

Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry's
Jerry Greenfield

Half of a dynamic duo who turned an ice cream shop into an ice cream empire and became household names in the process will share his experiences at an annual Grand Junction event celebrating entrepreneurship.

Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, will deliver the keynote luncheon address at Entrepreneurship Day April 20 at Mesa State College.

“When you talk about entrepreneurs, he is really kind of the epitome of what that definition is,” said Kristi Pollard, director of development at Mesa State.

Entrepreneurship Day also will include a series of free presentations on various business topics, the announcement of the latest winner of an annual entrepreneur of the year award and a student competition to develop ideas for new products and services.

“We really want to hone in on the true meaning of what it means to be an entrepreneur,” Pollard said.

Informational sessions in the Academic Classroom Building will be free. Tickets to the luncheon and keynote address by Greenfield at the College Student Center Ballroom sell for $50 each or $500 for a table for 10. Mesa State students pay $20. General admission tickets that don’t include lunch sell for $10. For tickets or more information, call 248-1902 or visit the Web site at www.mesastate.edu/eday.

The Entrepreneurship Day luncheon serves as a fund-raiser for the business department at Mesa State. A luncheon last year featuring actor, economist and writer Ben Stein sold out.

Pollard expects Greenfield to be just as popular as he recounts the evolution of Ben & Jerry’s and the sense of fun that’s become a hallmark of the company as well as discusses the business benefits of social responsibility.

Greenfield was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up on Long Island. He met Ben Cohen in junior high school.

After college, Greenfield lived with Cohen in New York City and worked as a lab technician. Disenchanted with their jobs, Greenfield and Cohen decided to pursue their dreams of going into business for themselves.

After some research that included a $5 correspondence course on making ice cream, the two launched Ben and Jerry’s Homemade in 1978, operating an ice cream parlor out of what was formerly a gas station in Burlington, Vt.

The business quickly became known throughout Vermont for its unusual flavors as well as the owners’ community oriented approach to business. Greenfield and Cohen sponsored festivals and celebrated the anniversary of the opening of their business with free ice cream cones.

More than 30 years later, what started out as a single ice cream parlor has grown into a $300 million ice cream empire. Ben & Jerry’s distributes a variety of premium ice cream and ice cream novelties in U.S. and foreign markets through convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants and franchise Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops.

Greenfield initially made the ice cream for the operation. But as the business expanded, he subsequently handled everything from distribution to employee orientation and motivation.

The U.S. Small Business Administration selected Greenfield and Cohen at its Small Business Persons of the Year in 1988.

The company also has been recognized for its commitment to social responsibility, wining the Corporate Giving award from the Council on Economic Priorities in 1988. In January, Greenfield and Cohen received the Martin Luther King Jr. Center Salute to Greatness Award.

Greenfield and Cohen share their experiences in their book, “Ben & Jerry’s Double-Dip: Lead With Your Values and Make Money, Too.”

In addition to the luncheon address, Entrepreneurship Day will offer a series of free presentations covering such topics as banking, social media and exit strategies. Presentations also will explore entrepreneurship in the arts and music. The presentations will feature Grand Valley entrepreneurs sharing their experiences. Local entrepreneurs and students will set up booths to display and sell their products.

Entrepreneurship Day offers Mesa State students an opportunity to interact with entrepreneurs and learn how classroom instruction applies to business management, Pollard said. “It shows students exactly what it means to be an entrepreneur.”