Learn How Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Is Taking Over One Scoop At A Time
Jeni Britton Bauer started Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in a small stall in Columbus nearly 25 years ago. Today, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream has 36 scoop shops around the country and sells 2 million pints of ice cream annually. After nearly 25 years in the business, making and selling ice cream has been hardwired into her very essence.
And that’s due, in part, to her upbringing. “I grew up loving ice cream because I’m from the Midwest,” Britton Bauer, tells CNBC Make It. “We don’t even think of ice cream as dessert here,” she says, adding that it’s practically its own food group. Certainly something that you eat every day. Just like drinking coffee in the morning is a sacred ritual, so is enjoying ice cream in the evening.
And Britton Bauer’s journey toward building a thriving ice cream business started early in life. Britton Bauer vividly recalls the moment her grandmother put her on the path to becoming an ice cream entrepreneur at just 10 years old. “She was standing in the kitchen stirring a pot, and she stopped me in my tracks and said: ‘Jeni, you’re so lucky because you can be whatever you want to be. You can be a doctor, lawyer, an astronaut. It wasn’t like that for me.'” At the time, Britton Bauer simply responded with a “Thanks, Grandma,” and darted off.
“But I remember, when I when I ran outside — in that moment — I thought, Well if that’s true then I’ll be an ice cream maker,” she recalls.” Ice cream has always been a part of my life, and I think it was meant to be.” Even if Britton Bauer was destined to create ice cream — and selling a stunning 2 million pints last year alone suggests she was — that doesn’t mean building her business from the ground up was easy.
Seven years before Britton Bauer started her own business, she got her first taste of the industry when she took a job at a local ice cream parlor when she was just 15. “I loved it,” Britton Bauer says of that first job. Yes, her arms hurt and she got blisters from scooping. “I had to wear gloves the first few weeks,” she says. “To this day my right arm is bigger than my left arm, and it all started back then.”
The part-time job did more than just introduce Britton Bauer to the ice cream business, it acquainted her with the concept of service. “I felt like I could put all of my nervous energy aside and put all of my focus on someone else,” she says. “I really believe that’s why I make ice cream now. The way that I approach everything in my life is from that point of view of service, because it’s where I feel absolutely comfortable.”
It was while she was attending Ohio State University as an art major that she had an epiphany that would officially lead her down the path to starting her own business: Scent is a vital component of ice cream. “Scent and flavour sort of blooms in ice cream,” she says. Once she realised that, she became obsessed with making ice cream at home, blending together essential oils like rose and cayenne with a vanilla or chocolate base.
She eventually quit art school, just walked out of art class one day and started a small shop called Scream Ice Cream in Columbus’ North Market in 1996. Britton Bauer spent each day learning on the job, working out of a tiny freezer to create flavours that combined ingredients from other local vendors in the market.
One of the first flavours Britton Bauer offered was a salty caramel. She had mastered the art of caramel making while working in a French bakery. And it proved to be a winning recipe for her. “People would drive in from the surrounding states to get it,” she says. But the popularity of one flavor did not turn Scream Ice Cream into an instant business success.CNBC Make It