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Ben and Jerry originally wanted to open a bagel shop

Ben and Jerry’s tale of triumph is quite inspiring, reminding us all to be open to new opportunities in order to find success.

ben and jerry's ice cream

ben and jerry's ice cream

Finding inspiration in professional predecessors

There are many successful businessmen and women that are your professional predecessors. Some of their successes were all very ordinary, traditional, and expected. However, not all of famous business owners kept to the path they originally had in mind. In fact, you might be surprised and even inspired by some business owners’ humble beginnings, difficult paths, and perhaps strange professional decisions.

Take the company Ben & Jerry’s as the perfect example. Their original aspirations were to own a bagel shop, not an ice cream shop. But sometimes, things don’t always go the way we envisioned. Ben and Jerry learned that lesson well.

According to, “Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield ended up changing their minds when they found out how much it would cost to get all the needed equipment for making bagels. Instead, in 1978, they both took a $5 correspondence course from Pennsylvania State University on ice cream making. They then took $12,000, $4,000 of which was borrowed, and converted an old gas station in Burlington, Vermont into an ice cream parlor called Ben & Jerry’s Homemade. Before opening the ice cream shop, Jerry Greenfield was a lab technician, in New York, who tried three times to get into medical school, failing each time. Ben Cohen attended various colleges, eventually dropping out and settling on working as a crafts teacher for emotionally disturbed children in New York.”

Being open to new opportunities

So, why does any of this matter? What it should teach you is the importance of being open to new opportunities. While we may plan out our lives to perfection, it rarely follows the path that we so desperately paved. Benn and Jerry were rejected several times from educational programs and they knew they couldn’t afford to buy the necessary bagel-making equipment. Instead, they were open to new ideas, one of which was making ice cream. Because they didn’t quit when doors were consistently slammed in their faces, they created a successful business that has spanned decades, and is set to span many more.

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As business professionals, sometimes our best experiences are the ones that are least expected, which could be a new job offer or the opportunity to work in a completely new industry. Instead of following your gut reaction of refusing the chance, take a moment to acknowledge why you want to turn it down. Is it for fear that you’ll have a lot to learn? Is it because you’re comfortable where you are professionally? These reasons aren’t good enough to ignore important and life-changing opportunities. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t hold firm to your visions of the future. Allow yourself those quiet moments of self-reflection and those quick and sometimes chaotic moments that will let you redefine yourself.

Written By

The American Genius Staff Writer: Charlene Jimenez earned her Master's Degree in Arts and Culture with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Denver after earning her Bachelor's Degree in English from Brigham Young University in Idaho. Jimenez's column is dedicated to business and technology tips, trends and best practices for entrepreneurs and small business professionals.



  1. JamesRShaw

    July 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    I love reading about how successful people started out – inevitably they weren’t the “overnight success” we all think. Usually it’s multiple failed businesses over many years – the common theme seems to be they never gave up..

  2. seth_arimainyu

    July 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    @DanielZeevi thank god they went another way!

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