2024 Leadership award winner for Equity & Opportunity

Antonio McBroom

Primo Partners
Equity & Opportunity

Building upon the progressive traditions of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, Antonio McBroom is making a lasting impact on the rights of the disenfranchised in the Southeast, as the owner of 20 Ben & Jerry’s franchises in North Carolina, Washington, DC, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and other southern states.

“It is important to have a purpose in business, to make an impact in the communities you serve,” said McBroom, 37, CEO of Primo Partners. “We provide opportunity for people like us, by showing that success is possible for those challenged by socio-economic, racial, gender, or religious prejudices.

“And we do that through ice cream.”

McBroom’s journey began when he started working at a Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop while an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He acquired his first franchise in 2008, at the age of 21. From the beginning, he was combining doing good with business, working at Teach for America at South Durham High School during the day, followed by scooping ice cream in the late afternoon and evening.

Primo Partners' most recent openings are three shops in metro DC—National Harbor, Old Town Alexandria, and The Wharf. The company has 50 management employees and 200 total staff.

“People are the purpose behind our organization,” said McBroom. “We hire people with high potential who have not always had monetary or educational advantages. Growing these people to be successful within Primo or to go beyond and lead other businesses is how we define success.”

Taylor Gray, McBroom’s executive assistant, wrote, “Antonio has had a profound impact on my life, becoming one of my most significant supporters and a mentor who has changed the trajectory of my personal and professional development….I've gained financial literacy, a skill that has not only enriched my life but has also allowed me to make a positive impact on my own family's financial well-being.”

McBroom strives for impact at all levels of staff involvement, which he characterizes as “tours of duty:”

• Transitional: 6 to 18 months

• Transformational: 2 to 5 years

• Foundational: 5 years plus

He noted that it is important to respect and build within all levels. “We want to provide the framework for everybody to be successful, regardless of their time with us,” McBroom said. “We hire teenagers and can have a transformative impact on their lives.”

A majority of Primo’s leadership is female and people of color, creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. The company actively participates in mentorship programs, providing support through internships, webinars, leadership and professional development, and community-building efforts to inspire minority entrepreneurs.

McBroom’s fight for social equality and justice goes well beyond the walls of the ice cream shops. He currently feels democracy is challenged and works with the Georgia Alliance for Progress to build the progressive movement in that state, focusing on access to the polls.

Other partner organizations include N.C. Diaper Bank, Prison Books, student groups, Carolina 4 The Kids, First Responders, and NCPIRG. Primo is also actively involved in the N.C. Voting Coalition, aimed at increasing civic engagement among North Carolina's youth, and is a member of You Can Vote's voting rights champion group.

“We want to encourage black wealth through employment and fairness in society,” McBroom said.