Ben Van Leeuwen, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream // From an ice cream truck to 44 states

I visited Ben Van Leeuwen at his Brooklyn-based ice cream factory!  They have a truly remarkable story, starting from a single ice cream truck 10yrs ago, to building an epic brand with a cult following.
They’ve since grown to a $20mil business, going from 15 stores to 25 in the next few months after taking investment for the first time. They’ve also grown their wholesale business selling in over 1000 stores across 44 states.
In this candid and revealing interview – we discuss their humble beginnings, meeting his co-founder, falling in love,  a focus on product excellence by sourcing the very best ingredients from around the world & you’ll hear what it took to build their business with zero investment after their modest friends and family round.

Five Things To Listen Out For

(1) Travel – Ben leaving college to travel and explore the world.
(2) Kaizen vs 10x Moonshot Thinking – continuous improvement in all aspects of their company vs a mindset of massive transformational change
(3) Starting a business with his wife & brother – navigating a breakup, working with family & how they’ve made Van Leeuwen a huge success
(4) Product & Customer Excellence – focusing on using only the very best ingredients & bringing joy to their customers
(5) Growth – stories from starting their first ice cream truck to growing to 25 stores & 44 states & why they decided to take major investment for the first time

Time Stamps

3:02 – Who is Ben Van Leeuwen

3:58 – How did Ben get into ice cream

10:45 – Where Ben’s food awareness came from

13:23 – Ben’s parents and his upbringing

16:56 – How Ben developed his entrepreneurial spirit

18:00 – The “ice cream idea”

20:44 – Being healthy in an ice cream world

23:46 – Ben’s travel memories

26:38 – Ben’s craftsmanship in his work

29:35 – Company values

30:54 – Ben meeting his cofounder

33:10 – How the company began

36:21 – Writing initial business plan

42:09 – Logo, branding and naming

45:55 – Tactically building your team

48:34 – Beginnings of the business

50:25 – Putting the best ingredients into their first chocolate ice cream

55:47 – First real day of business

65:19 – What the business looks like today – 15-25 stores, selling in 1000 stores across 44 states

67:02 – Ben’s thoughts on expansion

70:38 – First year revenue numbers

71:33 – Focus moving forward

73:30 – Working with brother and wife

74:35 – Working with ex-wife

75:42 – Difficulties with raising money

79:18 – Dealing with rejection

80:58 – 20 years from now…

83:45 – Admirable trait: not taking shortcuts

84:54 – Other products for Ben to explore

86:29 – Final remarks and advice

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Dru Riley, // Meta-Trends, Paid Newsletters + Crypto