Helping the Conscious Food Movement Grow: An Interview With Alexis Gallivan

By Randi Zuckerberg

August 29, 2017 6 min read

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of ice cream, so when Alexis Gallivan came in to the SiriusXM studios for an interview, I was thrilled that I had the opportunity to try her delicious, conscientious creations.

Another reason I support this woman's work.

Alexis Gallivan is the co-founder of Blue Marble Ice Cream in Brooklyn, N.Y.

1) When did you decide to start Blue Marble?

After working in international development for nearly a decade, I grew frustrated by what I saw as a deep and senseless divide between the private and public sectors. There was very little meaningful collaboration and integration of cross-sector best practices at the time — even though we ultimately shared the same general aims, albeit for different reasons. This division seemed like a terrible waste of opportunity to me, as it really limited our individual and collective impact.

In the midst of this frustration, I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn. My move predated the borough's artisanal food renaissance, and the ice cream fanatic in me was disappointed to discover that there were no good scoops to be had in my new neighborhood. After complaining about this for months, I was hit with my "aha" moment. I realized that filling this gap in the ice cream market was my chance to both satisfy my sweet tooth and push for more good in the world in an entirely new and innovative way.

2) What is the best part of running your own business?

I often describe entrepreneurship as running a sprint and a marathon simultaneously. You need to have some serious speed and strength to move ahead of the competition, but you also need patience and endurance to withstand the hills and curves on the long road ahead of you. While totally exhausting, this training has given me a full-brain workout and fueled my development into a highly competent and versatile business professional. This hard-fought capacity is a reward on its own, but I value the confidence it's given me most of all. I believe in myself and feel ready for whatever challenges await me.

3) Why is corporate social responsibility important for small businesses?

I won't sugarcoat it. Having (and maintaining) integrity in business is really, really hard. There are financial temptations at every turn to cut corners, compromise and otherwise stray from your founding values. Blue Marble has not been immune to these struggles, but instead of treating our ideals as some kind of albatross, we built our entire value proposition around them. In fact, our name — borrowed from the nickname for planet Earth — represents our commitment to the well-being of the world around us. This commitment began with our sourcing. As a certified organic company, we sought to 1) create the most pure, honest and decadent ice cream we could and 2) drive demand for farmers worldwide who are fighting to grow and raise our food in responsible, sustainable and humane ways and earn a living wage in doing so. Determined to create an environmentally friendly experience and atmosphere for our guests, we were also among the first food companies nationwide to exclusively use compostable flatware and incorporate green building materials in our retail locations.

Just one year after opening our first shop in Brooklyn, Jennie and I launched our social venture, Blue Marble Dreams, with a mission to extend our impact to communities in need. We began by partnering with a group of women in Butare, Rwanda, to build Inzozi Nziza (Sweet Dreams), their town's first-ever ice cream shop. This unique social enterprise has generated stable jobs for dozens of women, built demand for area farmers and stimulated commerce throughout the community. The story and impact of Inzozi Nziza was chronicled in the critically acclaimed documentary "Sweet Dreams."

Because these efforts are an integral part of who we are (and not just what we do or feel we are obligated to do), we don't explicitly consider them acts of "corporate social responsibility." However, they can be used as examples of such for other small businesses and have yielded many of the desired business benefits of CSR — a compelling recruitment tool, a motivated and loyal staff, great public relations material, and, perhaps most importantly, an opportunity to differentiate from the competition and increase market share. These benefits have been helpful, but they aren't what motivate us most. We fundamentally believe that by using our business to create meaningful opportunities for others in the world, we are investing in a more just, peaceful and prosperous future for us all. The value of the return far surpasses the short-term costs. We urge other business owners to share their unique expertise, resources and influence and, in doing so, create new possibilities for people and the world at large.

Randi Zuckerberg is the founder of Zuckerberg Media, a best-selling author and the host of a weekly business show on SiriusXM, "Dot Complicated." To find out more about Randi Zuckerberg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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