We are proud to announce a new financial partnership with the private-equity firm Castanea Partners. They are highly respected in the private equity world and a group we have been wanting to work with for years. It’s an exciting moment for us, and I want to explain why.
We are absolutely devoted to making better ice creams and bringing people together. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and keeps us up late at night. It’s why our company exists.
We pursue that mission like professional athletes do sport: never satisfied, always pressing, moving forward, looking for ways to get better. From science—innovations in sugar and dairy; plant-based ice creams (our moonshot); texture, body, and finish—to business: logistics, allocation, planning, procurement, etc. And we totally geek out on the nerdy stuff. The mathletes in our finance department have bedazzled calculators. Our newest team member has a Ph.D. in microbiology. Our digital team does multivariate testing for fun.
I have a vision for what ice cream can be—and we aren’t there yet. It’s a vision I could only begin to understand after 20 years of making ice cream. I’m not just talking about creating fun new flavors; I’m talking about improving the quality of ice cream—texture, body, and finish—in ways that haven’t been done before.
I remember one night back in 2002, after close at the market, standing by the dish tank, staring at a pile of buckets the size of Manhattan, looking up at the sign that said Jeni’s, and for the first time realizing the wisdom of naming the company after myself (which I had resisted doing, but went with on the advice of friends). I was the caretaker of the vision. It required a person to put their name on the line. For everything we do. To say it out loud.
I want to build a company that sets the standard for 21st century food production. I want us to be leaders in the good food movement. I want to make ice cream that makes you see a million stars.
The hardest thing for an ice cream maker to do is to truly innovate in this space, and that’s exactly what I want do. We’ve been working toward it, inching forward, but we haven’t had all of the resources. Enter Castanea. You might think of them as our new sponsors, helping to fund our mission. I think of them as the financial partner of our dreams. They are invested in us—in our company, our culture, our people, and our mission.
I’ll never forget heading out on my last book tour and our CEO, John Lowe, calling to say he was excited about a firm in Boston, that they were good people and totally get us, that I should meet them while I was in town. I hit it off with the Castanea team from the first moment, and now two and a half years later that connection has only gotten tighter.
We believe that you can grow a business as a community of people, with artful attention to detail and the customer experience, and get continuously better at the same time. That you don’t have to compromise. That the most important thing is doing it right. You need a mix of vision, tenacity, and patience. Dream BIG WORK HARD. It’s a train we’re on and we won’t get off until we get to the station.
We believe that REALLY great ice cream, served perfectly in a sparkling and beautiful space, with attentive and in-the-moment service (we believe service is an art) brings people together and helps them connect. And that sometimes sparks fly. And that there should be more sparks flying, generally. We like to make people feel good.
Our new partnership with Castanea gives us the the opportunity to make better ice cream—more direct trade ingredients, new equipment, more studies in our R&D kitchen, more talent on our team—and to open more scoop shops, places for people to get to know each other better, to conspire with one another, to fall in love.
We have built this business over the past 14 years on relationships with people. We have built it as a community—growers, makers, producers, suppliers, customers. We call it the fellowship model, combining values from the good food world with tools from the 21st century. And our customers are at the heart of it. We could never do what we do, the way that we do it, without your support. And we will never, ever forget that. (Thank you.)