Ben & Jerry’s 1983 Public Stock Offering to the residents of Vermont raised the company $750K for 17.5% of the company for a manufacturing plant, allowing them to skip venture capital and stick to their social mission. 1 in every 100 Vermont family owns some stock in Ben & Jerry’s. What a brilliant piece of business history :)!
Ultimately, Cohen and Greenfield did decide to keep the company, but they vowed not to allow the growth of their enterprise to overwhelm their ideas of how a business could be a force for positive change in a community. ‘We decided to adapt [the company] so we could feel proud to say we were the businessmen of Ben & Jerry’s,’ Cohen concluded. Among the stipulations they made to ensure that their company would be different from other parts of corporate America was a salary cap, limiting the best-paid people in the company to wages just five times higher than those of the lowest-paid employees. As Ben & Jerry’s grew, this unusual limitation would complicate the company’s high-level staffing.
To finance further growth, Greenfield and Cohen decided to raise capital to expand by selling stock to the public. However, in an effort to maintain a sense of local accountability in the company, they limited the stock offering to residents of Vermont, utilizing a little-known clause of the state law governing stocks and brokering. With the proceeds from this sale of stock, the company began construction of a new plant and corporate headquarters in Waterbury, Vermont, about half an hour away from Burlington.
Watch the documentary Biography: Ben & Jerry.