Meet the Founder:
Jeni Britton Bauer
of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
When a name says it all…Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams truly are in a word, splendid. Creamy beyond belief, Jeni Britton Bauer’s creations have delighted countless customers for years.
01 Why did you start Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams?
I had a vision to change the standard for ice cream. I make ice cream more like a cheesemaker crafts cheese—it’s all about milk proteins and pasteurization, and many other nerdy details that we obsess over to get a buttercream-like texture and hard body. We like using the power of milk proteins over a prefab mix or added stabilizers or emulsifiers, which can dampen flavor and impart a dull metallic taste. I don’t know anyone who makes ice cream like we do — designed to melt a very specific way. Bouncy like buttercream and then cleanly, thinly, releasing scent as it goes. And here we are 17 years later, still making ice cream that is raising the bar of American standards, while maintaining the quality of our ingredients and staying true to our community.
02 What obstacles did you face along the way?
At first I didn’t understand that entrepreneurship is a two-way conversation with customers. When I opened my first ice cream business, Scream, in the North Market, I thought of myself as some sort of ice cream artist. I made the flavors I wanted to make each day, which was problematic when customers came back for Salty Caramel and I didn’t have it. When I reopened as Jeni’s, I set up two dipping cabinets—one for customers’ favorites and the other for experimental and seasonal flavors. That way customers could taste new flavors, but order their old standby if they wanted. The learning curve is steep no matter what business you are starting. The best thing you can do is jump in and just do it. You learn as you make mistakes. There’s no better school in the world than that.
03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Be there. It’s important to know every aspect of your business from the back of the house to the front. To see your customers as a valued part of your company and to know what inspires them each day. To know what to keep behind the scenes and what to put out front. And know how to work in the trenches and what every member of your team experiences. To always be able to relate to them. As you grow, this knowledge is your foundation. I go back to those eight years of the early days at Jeni’s every single day. That knowledge is priceless and no one else in my company has that perspective but me. There is no way to get it but to be there every day.
04 What’s on the horizon for Jeni’s?
We’ve been super busy in our test kitchen working on new flavors for this year—our upcoming lineup might be our best yet. So stay tuned!
05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
I see the world through ice cream eyes, so I’m always hunting for things, places, people who inspire me. When all that fails, I love libraries and when I need to spark my creativity, I go to the library and pick a book and let my mind wander. Sometimes, you just need a little quiet and space to let your mind wander to get inspiration.