How the Co-Founder of Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Laura O'Neill Has Built a Legacy in Gourmet Ice Cream

Second Life Podcast: Laura O'Neill
(Image credit: Tracy Nguyen)

Welcome to Second Life, a podcast spotlighting successful women who've made major career changes—and fearlessly mastered the pivot. Hosted by Hillary Kerr, co-founder and chief content officer at Who What Wear, each episode gives you a direct line to women who are game changers in their fields. Subscribe to Second Life on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you get your podcasts to stay tuned.

Laura O'Neill, the co-founder of the iconic Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, has a career journey that epitomizes the serendipitous nature of entrepreneurial success. Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, O'Neill began her career in event production. However, it was a trip to London in her early 20s that altered the course of her life. There, she met Ben Van Leeuwen, her future partner and co-founder of the now-beloved ice cream brand.

Van Leeuwen shared a bold idea with O'Neill just before she moved to New York: What if they started an ice cream truck that sold genuinely good ice cream? This concept immediately captivated O'Neill, and less than a year after her arrival in the States, she, Van Leeuwen, and his brother Pete launched Van Leeuwen Ice Cream. The trio dedicated the next decade to growing the business, gradually expanding their product line, opening brick-and-mortar stores, and developing a range of delicious vegan options.

Over the last several years, O'Neill and the Van Leeuwen brothers' professional partnership flourished —together, they continued to scale the business, demonstrating remarkable resilience and commitment. Today, O'Neill oversees all aspects of Van Leeuwen's marketing, and her creative vision has steered the company through various packaging rebrands, high-profile collaborations with celebrities such as Jimmy Butler, and the creation of unique special-edition flavors such as Hidden Valley Ranch. Under her guidance, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream has achieved impressive growth with over 50 shops and availability in 12,000 grocery stores across the country.

Listen to the latest episode of Second Life to find out how O'Neill decided to take the leap of faith to start a new brand in a new country and how she continues to evolve the gourmet ice cream concept.

Next: Meet Bo Shepherd: The Incredibly Talented Designer and Co-Founder of Woodward Throwbacks.

Freelance Editor