Image Ben & Jerry’s ‘Join Our Core’ competition
On Wednesday night I attended the announcement of the finalists in Ben & Jerry’s Join Our Core competition in London. Earlier in the day all twenty-five hopeful entrepreneurs had pitched their ideas to ten expert judges from the world of sustainable and ethical business including Ben & Jerry’s co-founder, Jerry Greenfield. Other judges included executives from Fairtrade Foundation, Ashoka and VSO, and were adjudicated by leading British environmental journalist Lucy Siegle.
The fifteen finalists of the Join Our Core competition, sponsored by Ben & Jerry’s, represent the brightest young sustainable business minds across Europe. They will be jetting off to Uganda for the next stage of the competition. The five overall winners will win a €10,000 cash prize each, mentoring from Ashoka, and will be featured on a Ben & Jerry’s flavour in 2013.
The atmosphere at the Depository, the warehouse where popular UK entrepreneurship television show, Dragon’s Den, is filmed was electric.
“There are no losers in the Join Our Core competition. I’m thrilled that we can help foster this entrepreneurial spirit for these young business people” said Ilaria Ida’, European Social Mission Manager at Ben & Jerry’s, who admitted that she greatly learned from and was inspired by the young business hopefuls.
Jerry Greenfield took the floor to announce the finalists.
Jerry encouraged the young entrepreneurs to stick to their dreams, explaining how Ben & Jerry’s ‘overnight success’ was anything but. “The first year, nothing happened, then the second year, nothing happened and then finally….” Jerry was full of praise for the organisers of the competition and admiration for the young people who had pitched their business ideas that day. He remarked on the spirit of camaraderie between the competitors and the great atmosphere that prevailed.
The finalists hail from the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands and will be whisked off to Uganda in August for the last leg of the competition, where they will live with Fairtrade vanilla farmers and work alongside a group of aspiring local entrepreneurs recruited by VSO. The public still has the chance to choose their favorite business idea among the finalists through the People’s Choice Award. Voting opens on 30th May and closes on 29th June. The 5 winners of the cash prize of €1,000, will be announced on 6th July. The five overall competition winners will be announced on 22nd August.
The contest is based upon the Ben & Jerry’s belief that as businesses grow they should share their prosperity as responsible community members. The progressive ice cream maker hopes to discover and support entrepreneurs that share that vision.
‘When we set-up the company in 1978, Ben and I always believed giving back to the community was as important as making great tasting ice-cream,” says Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s. “That’s why I am really excited about this competition, to find business models with those same values that still lead us today.”
The fifteen Join Our Core finalists are Archipelago , BioChair , Elevation Networks, Elvis & Kresse , FairMail , Food Cycle Hackney Pirates , !SYOU, Mattecentrum , ONEforONE,Play 31, Retoy, Ruby Cup , Rubies in the Rubble and Super Honey.
I met many of the finalists and was excited by their drive and determination, as well as their firm commitment to giving back. Later, I spoke with Sean Greenwood, Ben & Jerry’s Director of Public Relations. He too was full of admiration for the talent that had been exhibited that day, and echoed the sentiment that there were definitely no losers in this competition. He reiterated Ben & Jerry’s commitment to sustainable, ethical business, saying ‘who wants to profit by taking advantage of somebody else?’. If the finalists in the Join Our Core competition are any indication, there are lots of wonderfully talented young entrepreneurs out there who firmly agree.