Behind a Road-Tripping Ice Cream and Apron Adventure
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What happens when you put an ice cream maker and an artisanal apron crafter in an RV and set them loose?
No, this isn't the start of some dad joke—it's how Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams founder Jeni Britton Bauer and Hedley & Bennett founder Ellen Bennett got the idea for their recent road trip through the South. They set out with the goal of spreading joy, meeting local makers and inspiring Americans with entrepreneurial dreams just like theirs, or, in the words of Britton Bauer, to "collaborate, create and see what happens.”
Follow @jenibrittonbauer and @ellentheapronlady of @hedleyandbennett on an epic road trip ⚡️ this week through five great American cities to meet and inspire makers and shakers. Columbus, Louisville, Nashville, Atlanta, and Birmingham! Come say hi along the way or follow along at #icecreamandapronsforall. (Dates and locations at in profile.)
"Poets used to go on tour. And if they can, ice cream makers can, too," Britton Bauer says. So the duo, plus a team of eight others, piled into an RV for what they dubbed the Ice Cream and Apron Adventure, visiting five cities in five different states over the course of nine days. They started in Columbus, Ohio, then moved through Louisville, Nashville and Atlanta before finishing in Birmingham.
It might seem like an ambitious adventure, but these women aren't accustomed to hitting the brakes. "When I slow down, I feel weird," Britton Bauer says. Their zest for life and the success of their respective companies belies their hard work and dedication: Jeni's turns 15 next year, and Bennett's aprons are worn by chefs and restaurant workers all around the world.
The trip’s purpose wasn't to give back in a traditional way, rather, it was about showing small business owners and entrepreneurs throughout the country that they can (and should) follow their dreams. Consider their jaunt one giant "pay it forward" moment. While on the road, they would cold-call people they found on Instagram, then go and meet them, creating a mutualistic effect where the duo found inspiration in these makers, who in turn felt empowered to keep growing their businesses.
While in Atlanta, the duo held a pop-up shop to benefit The Giving Kitchen, an organization from the people of Staplehouse, which provides support to local restaurant industry employees faced with unexpected hardships. The organization was founded in 2014 as an extension of the support garnered for Atlanta chef Ryan Hidinger, who was heartbreakingly diagnosed with late-stage cancer and passed away early that year.
Another unexpected benefit in this world of scrolling through social media was actually meeting people face-to-face and addressing business issues with independent bloggers, small companies or even people who haven’t started their own businesses yet. "You can have friends online, but it's not validated until you meet in person," Britton Bauer says. Of course, now you can relive their road trip through social media and see how these two women were able to touch lives with their aprons, ice cream and unstoppable joy.
This is where #icecreamandapronsforall ends. Before this single day is over I will have spent considerable time in three time zones, dropped in on six cities, and frenetically ripped through the Birmingham entrepreneur scene. We scurried about the city on a mission! Popped into @revbham and met Lois who gave us the cliffs notes on the scene in this awesome town. Then headed straight across to @clubduquette and @greatbearwaxco where we made fast friends with the owners and bought some amazing shirts, WWII army jackets (@ellentheapronlady), bandanas, and a balm of some awesome sort, and promised to make a trade later of ice cream for some candles - too heavy to fly with! Hugs n high fives all over the place. Then a quick and perfectly piquant pumpkin soup and a glass of mint stevia tea over at @woodlawncyclecafe, and Ellen gave them an apron - which was a touching moment. Earlier, we loaded our bellies at @sawssoulkitchen with a big hunk of smoked pork and vinegary greens stacked over thin cheesy grits that had spread out over a styrofoam tray like milk on a kitchen counter. (photo above). There, we made friends with a couple from @domestiquecoffee who recommended all the next moves. @bakingbandits -- shit, you guys, we missed you this trip - we were literally in the uber headed your way until we realized you were closed. But there will be a next time bc we Bham!! Then Ellen and I made our tearful goodbye. I want to say more about that, and the close of this trip, but I've got to put some thought into it. I am now half dead on my way to Boulder by way of Houston + Denver and this has been ONE (*1*) day full of a million moments that I will never forget. Begun at 4 am in cbus (home yesterday to trick or treat, back to ATL early morn, see stories), then Bham, and I'm sleeping in Boulder in about three hours. WHAT. AN. ADVENTURE. I am grateful for every single second of it. And every single person along the way.
Both Britton Bauer and Bennett agreed they would definitely repeat this trip. Bennett would love to make it a quarterly event, traveling to different regions of America every time. "Community is real. People are real. The world is full of goodness that doesn't get shined on," she says. They had their fair share of issues (two lost wallets, three broken iPhones, one parked car hit) but Bennett says that just enforced their slogan of "They aren't the bumps in the road, they are the road." Which, by the way, is the heart of a limited-edition Igloo Letterpress poster for the pair, along with the trip's hashtag, #icecreamandapronsforall.
I love talking to other business owners and learning about their bumps in the road. I am thankful to have the opportunity to build a business where I want to work. Where I can hire and support awesome people and we can build our craft together. I wonder how this will influence the choices my kids make. I hope that they will be able to draw on the good and the bad to build their own dreams. Thanks to @jenibrittonbauer and @ellentheapronlady for today's inspiration! #icecreamandapronsforall #sappylatenightpost
It's nearly impossible to resist drawing a connection from this trip to a musician's habit of going on tour, especially time-crunched endeavors like Rihanna's 777 tour of seven shows in seven countries in seven days. And while there were plenty of road jams—think Beyoncé and Bieber—Britton Bauer cites Son Volt’s “Windfall” as the song that represents the trip for her.
"It's a great song about a road trip through the South, and to me, what it feels like to be in business," she says. Listen to the chorus of the song, and you'll realize exactly what she means: “Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel / May the wind take your troubles away.”
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