Small Magic in the Middle Market
November 1 2013 by Steve Rosenbaum
Passion separates the good from the great. Case in point – Jeni Britton Bauer.
Bauer’s passion is ice cream. Jeni had been creating her ice cream for years, often presenting them as gifts for a close circle of friends at birthdays and weddings. Taking a cue from her admirers, she sold her first batch at a marketplace in Columbus Ohio. Bauer invested the proceeds into a shipment of gourmet vanilla beans from Africa and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams was born.
According to the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service American’s the ice cream industry generates $10-billion in sales from consumption of about 1.5-billion gallons of ice cream per year. Knowing that she would never compromise the quality her hand crafted ice cream confections in exchange for growth, Jeni needed managerial expertise to compliment her creativity.
Enter family friend, and promising corporate counsel at GE Aviation, John Lowe. Lowe had meet Bauer and her husband after graduating from Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. Lowe helped the Bauers set up Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in exchange for a pint of Salty Caramel ice cream and a beer.
From that point, creation and distribution became the hallmarks Jeni’s innovation. Bauer continuously works to create flavors and combinations that drive consumers to purchase her products. Understanding that maintaining product quality was paramount, Lowe realized Jeni’s could not use intermediary distributors. Thus, Jenni’s is the first ice cream company to build a national market via direct shipping to retailers. They have gone from 0 (2009) to approximately 800 (2013) shelves across the country and Kuwait and Dubai. In addition, Bauer and Lowe have opened retail stores in Ohio, Illinois, Georgia and Tennessee.
Consumers paying up for the pricey pints and scoops have driven Jeni’s impressive growth rate. The company has gone from 3.5-million in sales and 150-employees in 2009 to nearly 12-million in sales and 400-employees in 2012.
CEO – Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Size: 435 Employees
Location: Grandview Heights, OH
Goal: Maintain corporate growth while not sacrificing product quality
Fact: Jeni’s has grown from 0 store shelves in 2009 to approximately 800 across the country, Kuwait and Dubai.
Unique: A recent listing for the post of CFO stated: There will be zero on-the-job training. The person filling this role needs to be experienced, tough, wicked smart, calm under pressure, and be 100% trustworthy, dependable and upbeat.