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An Upstart Emperor of Ice Cream

   Jeremy Kraus, W'98, may not have his bachelor's degree yet, but he has a product, a goal, an enemy, and a strategy -- not to mention a business that is expected to take in about a million dollars next year. The product is Jeremy's Microbatch Ice Creams -- a luscious, expensive, high-fat indulgence that comes in three flavors and can be found at some 350 outlets in the mid-Atlantic area. The goal is to make it, in his words, "the Generation-X ice cream." The enemy? That would be "the evil empire of Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's." And his strategy -- well, that's fairly complicated, but the thrust of it is to strip any prestige and cachet that his target audience may still associate with those two has-beens, while installing his brand as the true creme de la creme glacee.
Photo of Jeremy Kraus

   
"We feel we're creating an entirely new category in the ice-cream business: the microbatch category," he says. Think microbrewed beer, and you have an idea of the niche he's going after.
   "I haven't heard of anybody doing the same thing with such a compelling generational play," he adds matter-of-factly. "Granted, Ben & Jerry's had similar exposure 20 years ago, but people in my market have forgotten about the old days of Ben & Jerry's -- or were not even born then."
   What got Kraus into the ice-cream business wasn't so much a love of ice cream as the lure of "entrepreneurship on a grander scale." Ever since he took a management class with Wharton lecturer Myles Bass titled "Entrepreneurial Venture Initiation" -- which Kraus likes to call, only half-jokingly, a "religious experience" -- he knew that his life's calling was to be an entrepreneur. "I knew that I had to create my own job. They don't hire entrepreneurs upon graduation." And while he says he is "very devoted to this current endeavor," he sees himself doing "other and most likely very dissimilar projects later in my career."
   Kraus wants to create a "flavor niche," and his three flavors -- produced in Royersford, Pa. -- are coffee/chocolate chip, vanilla/oatmeal raisin, and chocolate/peanut butter. (Limiting himself to three makes it easier to convince retailers to give him some freezer space.) Be prepared to shell out somewhere between $3.19 and $3.99 a pint -- and don't expect to see it in any discount grocery stores: "You cannot maintain the prestige factor if your product is that commonplace."
   The 21-year-old Kraus defines his market as an "educated, upper-middle consumer who's very much into status symbols." A flicker of humor lights his features as he suggests that "most Penn students would qualify."
   A lot of Penn students are also likely to be sleeping off their late-night revelries while Kraus is in an 8:30 breakfast meeting with a retailer. "It's a different world," he admits, "but I wouldn't trade it. It's something I had to do."
   Kraus has financed his business with $70,000 that he earned in the stock market, as well as a $10,000 award he received from the state of Pennsylvania for the best new venture created by a young entrepreneur. He recently doubled his overhead by taking on an employee -- Tom Shelton, Jr. W'99.
   Eventually, he says, "There will come a point at which I may not actively manage the company. I do not see myself as a typical manager. I'm more of a creator."
   Unlike many of his entrepreneurial peers, says Kraus, he and his parent company, Strive, Inc., "seek opportunity indiscriminately." Ice cream may not be as "sexy as an information-technology venture, but I have a much broader definition of what 'technology' is. This is gastronomical technology."

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Copyright 1997 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 11/10/97