We’ve always said that the ice cream industry attracts many individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit, some eccentric, some exceptional but all with the common belief that they can, in one way or another, evolve or reshape the industry for the better.
However, it appears that this thirst to develop and change things isn’t always clenched within the ice cream industry, or anything to do with the ice cream industry as a matter of fact, with some rarely talented individuals going on to carve successful careers in hugely unrelated sectors.
The one you all probably already know about is Margaret Thatcher. Before entering the world of politics, the former Prime Minister took a research position at J. Lyons and Co. where she was tasked with whipping more air into ice cream. Putting her Oxford chemistry degree to use she produced a type of soft-scoop ice cream that could be pumped through a machine and unknowingly at the time, crafting the way for two future national favourites; Mr Whippy, and the ‘99’ cone.
More recently, the now philanthropic entrepreneur and co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Ben Cohen, has taken on the task of his life.
After selling his company to Unilever for $326-million in 2000, he has embarked on a unique undertaking: combatting what he considers as bloated, wasteful Pentagon weapons programs, more specifically starting with the F-35 fighter jet…so a slight change in direction but one he’s deadly serious about.
Cohen estimates he has contributed $1-million to various contract-monitoring efforts since selling his company and plans to keep spending having also recently financed a University of Massachusetts study comparing the economic impact of defence spending with public investments in education and other social programs.
Cohen said his goal is raising questions about Pentagon assertions that big-ticket weapon systems are the key to making the nation safer.
So, so far we’ve had an ice cream researcher go on to become one of the most formidable, and not to mention the first female, Prime Minister’s in British history and an ice cream manufacturer looking to take on the Pentagon over national defence spending.
A little closer to home now (UK) and last night (2nd December 2013) James Lambert, owner of Yorkshire based R&R Ice Cream, was crowned entrepreneur of the year at EY’s annual awards.
Having grown the company from scratch to a turnover approaching £750m and a pan-European workforce of nearly 3,000, he has since moved from the chief executive role to chairman following the sale of the firm for an undisclosed sum to private equity house PAI Partners in July this year.
It appears that the ice cream industry does attract world class entrepreneurs and opens many a door. In James Lambert we clearly have a very capable home-grown talent; whatever will he do next? Who will be the next Ben Cohen? Who will be the next Margaret Thatcher?