An Extra Helping

Community organizations discover a new way to raise funds and achieve their goals: buy a Ben & Jerry's franchise.

By Devlin Smith

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When customers in San Francisco walk into the Ben & Jerry's scoop shop at the historic intersection of Haight and Ashbury, they're not only getting to indulge their sweet tooth--they're also supporting the work of Juma Ventures, a nonprofit organization serving youth in the Bay Area.

Since opening their first franchise, called a PartnerShop, in 1994, Juma has used their affiliation with Ben & Jerry's to raise money and provide jobs to low-income youth. "It gives us a great training ground to bring youth in and create this meaningful work experience, then have them go on to jobs with higher levels of responsibility and increased pay," explains Bill Peden, business director for Juma Ventures.

Juma currently operates three scoop shops in San Francisco, caters events and sells ice cream at Candlestick and PacBell stadiums. The organization is considering opening more franchises in other Bay Area cities, like Oakland.

Currently, six nonprofit organizations operate PartnerShops around the country, all with the same goal: youth development. "The PartnerShops are vehicles for nonprofit partners to carry out their mission of job training for young adults," says Leslie Halperin, PartnerShop program specialist for Ben & Jerry's.

Fifteen years ago, the first Ben & Jerry's PartnerShop opened in Ithaca, New York. Though the franchise closed last summer, Halperin and the organization are proud of what the store accomplished. "They helped hundreds of youth in Ithaca get a first job and move on to better paying jobs," Halperin says.

Job training is the main focus of the PartnerShop program, so Ben & Jerry's specifically seeks community organizations that already have an employment program in place. "In some ways, we rely on them to be the experts in implementing a job training program," says Halperin, "but we do provide them with resources and support to help them develop and operate that job training program."

But having a successful job training program in place doesn't guarantee a nonprofit will be awarded a PartnerShop franchise. Like all other Ben & Jerry's franchisees, these organizations must have the financial stability and know-how to run a successful business.

The latest organization to meet those requirements is the Latin American Youth Center, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that serves at-risk Latino youth and families. Their PartnerShop opened this January. "The PartnerShop definitely adds value to the LAYC in a variety of ways," says Jennifer Shewmake, the center's director of creative enterprises. "Beyond allowing the LAYC to serve youth though a unique and innovative program, the scoop shop brings citywide attention to the work of the center."

Halperin is glad to see the Ben & Jerry's program having a direct impact on communities nationwide. "It allows us to meet our goals of giving back to the communities in which we do business and to use our expertise--making great ice cream and running great ice cream shops--to support the work of community-based nonprofit organizations," Halperin says. "That in itself has been an incredible reward to the company."

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