Ben & Jerry’s co-founder says quality of life key for start-ups | nnbusinessview.com

Ben & Jerry’s co-founder says quality of life key for start-ups

NNBW staff

If Jerry Greenfield were setting out today to launch a company a follow-up, say, to his wildly successful Ben & Jerry’s he doubts that formal programs to encourage entrepreneurship would play much of a role.

Instead, he’d probably look for a community with a good quality of life, one in which businesses provide leadership in making the investments that attractive communities require.

Greenfield will headline this week’s Governor’s Industry Appreciation Awards dinner. The event is Wednesday at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.

In a telephone interview last week from his company’s headquarters at South Burlington, Vt., Greenfield said an attractive quality of life for entrepreneurs ranges from the obvious such as good schools to more difficult-to-quantify factors such as a culture that welcomes a diversity of opinions.

“It’s not about taxes. It’s not about having the cheapest place in the world,” he said. “It’s better to have a sense of community.”

And business owners can help create that sense of community, he said, both by encouraging investment in quality of life and by supporting small and locally owned business.

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How to support them? Simple. Shop at locally owned companies.

How does he square that belief with the ownership of the company he founded by the multi-national Unilever, which purchased Ben & Jerry’s in 2000? Ben & Jerry’s stores are franchise operations owned by independent entrepreneurs, Greenfield noted.

He launched his company with Ben Cohen in 1978. The duo pooled their savings of $8,000 to open an ice-cream shop in an abandoned gas station in Burlington, Vt.

A partner, Greenfield said, is invaluable to an entrepreneur if nothing else, as a sounding board when times seem tough.

“It’s rare that you’re both down on the same day,” he said.

(Tickets for the governor’s Industry Appreciation Awards dinner are available at http://www.edawn.org.)