Ben Cohen: Co-Founder of Ben & Jerry’s on Business Done Differently

Ryan Honeyman
4 min readDec 8, 2021
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Ben Cohen, as the co-founder of one of the country’s most beloved brands, is far from what you might expect. His company, Ben & Jerry’s, is a household name, yet they have managed to maintain a connection to the community and a deep ethos of care. Ben is an activist and has been involved in issues related to ending qualified immunity, getting money out of politics, taxing billionaires, dismantling white supremacy, and tackling climate change.

Since being started by two friends, Ben and Jerry’s has never strayed far from its mission of wanting to do business differently. While this may have cost them some opportunities, those were never the ones they wanted anyway. Through sticking to their beliefs, they have found true partners on their journey.

In today’s episode, Ben shares some of the company’s origin story, including the innovative way they initially raised money. We talk about how they have built the spirit of giving back into the work they do, and Ben offers insights into what the reception to this has been like. Our conversation also touches on the decision to not sell the products in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the importance of tackling inequity in the present moment, and why we need to end qualified immunity. Tune in to hear it all!

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Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

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Key Points From This Episode:

  • How Ben came to be interested in the work he is doing today and details on his colorful career.
  • The founding mission of Ben & Jerry’s and how they have maintained their connection to the community.
  • How Ben & Jerry’s raised funds initially without using venture capital and how they went public.
  • Ben & Jerry’s decision to not sell their products in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
  • Overcoming the inequities of the past has to happen in the present moment.
  • Ben’s take on how change happens; a grassroots approach is needed.
  • What qualified immunity is and why Ben is so passionate about ending it.

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“We opened up this ice cream shop; our idea was that we wanted to be community based, although we didn’t know what that meant. And we wanted to run a business in a way that regular, everyday people on the street would like to see businesses run.” — @YoBenCohen

“We believe, I don’t think there’s much question, that the basic problem in terms of the inequity and injustice in the world is the increasing concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer people and entities.” — @YoBenCohen

“We’re living today where a big chunk of our society was denied opportunities, and so, I feel like today, we have to work to provide those opportunities .” — @YoBenCohen

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Show Notes + Other Links

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Ryan Honeyman

Partner / Worker-Owner at LIFT Economy. Co-author of “The B Corp Handbook.” Co-host of the Next Economy Now podcast.