Discovering the Art of Ice Cream | with Jeni Britton Bauer

Jeni Britton Bauer is a modern-day Willy Wonka. She’s the founder and chief creative officer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, a multi-channel retailer with dozens of company-owned scoop shops across the country, a robust eCommerce presence, and distribution in top groceries across the united states. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is a registered B-corporation, meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. 

And as her title implies, she views running a business as an act of constant creating — and her life experiences primed her for creation.

Jeni was raised by non-traditional thinkers. Her grandmother was an art and English teacher, and she instilled a deep sense of curiosity. Both of her grandparents were voracious readers, having to order books from other cities because they had read every book in the local library. 

Jeni was also allowed to think the world was a magical place as a child — and she believes it now still. Her parents encouraged her to leave her school work at school, and while she was home, she would start businesses or host fundraisers. The school system was not serving her, though. She was a free-roaming kid who was then forced into a very rigid structure.

As she grew up, she realized that having a traditional career would be a lot like going to school, and that was not going to work for her. So, when she learned about starting a business and creating your own job, she knew that was the path she would have to follow.

Jeni ended up going to Ohio State, briefly. She continued to reinforce that school wasn’t really for her, but college did go much better. Instead of staying on a degree track, she took the classes she wanted to take and spent a lot of time on campus. It was here that she started studying chemistry and scented compounds. Combined with the realization that butterfat was the perfect carrier for scent, she started experimenting with making ice cream.

Jeni had her share of struggles getting her business off the ground. It took much trial and error to create the prototype of her ice cream formula. There was also a listeria outbreak that really held them back. But, according to Jeni, our values are forged in crisis. It’s easy to operate in your values during normal times, but during a challenge, you’re faced with the question of whether sticking with your current values will sink your business. And if you make it through to the other side, you’ve earned the confidence to move forward.

Entrepreneurship is building your own world, and Jeni’s job is creating that world. Through following the things that interested and excited her, Jeni was able to create a world of magic for herself that she gets to share with the world. Through trials, her values were tested and proven strong.

Anyone can do this — building their own world — as long as they believe that it’s possible. This world is as magical a place as you allow it to be.

What Brett asks:

  • [03:04] What was your early childhood like?
  • [07:52] Did you always see yourself as being creative?
  • [09:10] Where did your belief system come from?
  • [13:31] How did your experience feeling like school wasn’t for you shape you?
  • [17:44] What was happening in your life that was falling apart and how did that influence you?
  • [21:02] How were your parent’s expectations of being parents affect you?
  • [28:51] Tell me about going to Ohio State and continuing to realize school is not for you?
  • [36:32] Tell us how you connected the dots between things you were passionate about?
  • [39:35] What was it like to be pioneering in a space that hasn’t had much innovation?
  • [52:01] What was it like going through struggles and crisis?
  • [56:03] Do you feel like we’re prepared for crisis when we keep seeing new things?
  • [01:00:40] What is your role in the company as the Chief Creative Officer?
  • [01:06:12] How did your family story round out?

Lessons for intentional living:

  • Follow your curiosity. Follow your nature. Follow what sounds good to you. The individual pieces that excite you — in Jeni’s case, chemistry and scent — will lead you to something exciting, even if you never would have come to that conclusion from the beginning.