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How to Launch a Successful Business Together

Ready to join forces and launch your biz? New York ice cream gurus Laura O'Neill and Ben Van Leeuwen tell you how they did it.

Your entrepreneurial alter ego has been hollering at you lately. Hello? Remember me? Your great plan?! so here’s a thought: do something about it! to get you started, the brooklyn-based van leeuwen artisan ice cream team of laura, 28, and ben, 26, are dishing on what it took to launch their company. this married couple started by scooping from one truck in 2008 and two years later have a small fleet, a store and a line of products at whole foods. here, they offer tips on what you can do to get moving on your own sweet idea.

Find What You Love For some folks, it’s a no-brainer -- they’re born with a passion for something and know from diapers what they’re meant to do. But for others, choosing a fulfilling career isn’t so simple. Laura and Ben’s suggestion: Think back to your best work experience, and start there. Before he met Laura, Ben drove a good humor truck for extra money during his college breaks. He had such a blast being on the road -- and not in a cubicle like his pals -- that he was inspired to create his own ice cream biz...with a twist.

Enlist the Perfect Partner The couple had been dating for just a year when Ben asked Laura to help make his gourmet ice cream vision a reality. It made good business sense; Laura was working at an event planning company in Australia, so she understood the demands of customers and was used to working with food vendors. Laura, who had met Ben while interning in the big apple (they’d been dating long distance since then), decided to make the permanent move to new york.

Know Your Team’s Strengths ID each person’s best business abilities -- and let them run with it. For Ben, it was the business plan. “Ben learned the ins and outs of creating a business plan in college, so he took the lead on that,” Laura says. Her own work experience came in handy when it was time to organize the logistics of their start-up. There was still a missing piece though -- so the duo decided to bring on Ben’s brother, Pete, as well. His task? Managing the technical operations, like the maintenance of the trucks.

Set Yourself Apart From the Pack Laura and Ben decided early on that they didn’t want to compete with traditional ice cream trucks -- New York City already had a Mister Softee truck on almost every corner. Their goal: Take their passion for healthy, organic foods and create a tasty and natural product at a reasonable price point (small cups go for $4, large cups sell for $7). “We use the finest ingredients, like pistachios from a village in Italy and vanilla beans grown in Papua New Guinea,” says Ben, who even as a kid steered away from junk food. “We also tell stories about our ingredients, like where they come from and who produces them.” Case in point: The honey jar resting on the windowsill of the new Brooklyn storefront is clearly marked “from Pennsylvania.”


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