Earlier this week, my wife and I were invited to the grand opening of the Jeni's Scoop Shop in Chicago's West Loop. It was an exciting affair and one that I'm glad that we were able to attend.
We were invited because our store, Green Grocer Chicago, sells pints of Jeni's products and they have been a good category for us. Our customers enjoy pints of Jeni's ice cream even in the coldest of months. So you know something has to be good with the ice cream!
Our sales rep Petra introduced us to Jeni while we were standing in line for our double scoops of ice cream. It was hectic and I knew that Jeni was busy with well wishers and greeting important guests.
But the entrepreneur in me couldn't resist the opportunity to ask some questions about her rise to success and also to observe how she interacted with people at such a busy event.
Here's what I took away and I want to share it with you:
It only took Jeni 25 years to become an overnight success. For those of us who are old enough, ice cream branding meant Haagen Daz and Ben & Jerry's. Jeni's seems like a new brand that seemingly has popped up out of nowhere and is growing quickly. Guess what? Jeni told me she has been in the industry for 25 years starting in low level, minimum wage jobs. She learned her craft by working her way up the ladder and gaining important experience that allowed her to take the risks to launch her own company.
Some businesses will thrive in economic hard times. I asked Jeni about how her business did during the Great Recession and she told me it was great for her business. Families and people with limited disposable income did not go out to eat since they either had no money to do so or they feared for what the future held. But they did want to go out and spoil themselves. So ice cream was the solution! And that was good for business despite the economic turmoil of the times.
Finally, having a magnetic personality is a great asset to a CPG brand. Jeni is vibrant, attractive, and a good speaker. She was willing to spend time with each guest who wanted to talk with her at the Grand Opening and her attention was undivided. That takes a certain talent and skill that I think is more common in female leaders than male (sorry men). If you are an introvert and want to launch a CPG brand, consider hiring someone who can fill that role and become the face and voice of the brand. It will help with gaining sales early on and may help you to focus on the business and back end challenges of growth.
Thanks for reading and share your comments if so inclined!