Joe Whinney & Debra Music
Tell us about your business.Theo Chocolate's dedication to social and environmental responsibility – along with the exceptional quality of our award-winning products – is what sets us apart. We continue to find ways to combine innovation with artisan practices to create the most delicious, highest quality chocolate possible. Our founder, Joe Whinney, pioneered the supply of organic cocoa beans into the United States in 1994. Over the next decade, he worked tirelessly to champion organic cocoa beans in the U.S. and promote Fair Trade practices, building lasting relationships and deep trust with farmer groups—all the while focused on the goal of someday making chocolate himself and sharing his passion with the world. In 2006, Joe’s dream came true, and Theo Chocolate was formed as the first and only bean-to-bar maker of Organic, Fair Trade, Fair for Life, and Non-GMO Project verified chocolate in all of North America. Theo also educates consumers, inviting them in for daily tours of our Seattle factory.
Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.Our factory is located in a historic brick building in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, built in 1905. Originally a trolley barn for the Seattle transportation system, the building housed many artists in the later part of the 20th century, until the Redhook Brewery settled there in the early 1980s. Crafting artisan chocolate in a building so critical to the history of Seattle inspires us every day. Our factory is located in a walking district and our factory tours have become a destination for Seattleites and tourists alike. We surprise and delight our 50k+ annual guests by unlocking the mystery of the chocolate making process, and sharing farmer stories from around the globe. On tours, guests are able to see bean-to-bar chocolate bar production on one side of our exposed brick wall, and table-tempering of ganache on the other. All Theo Chocolate is made in our historic factory location.
What inspires you?For Theo, chocolate making is about elevating the farmer story while making extraordinary products that excite and delight consumers. We use only the finest organic ingredients, sourced as locally as possible, and partner with organizations that share our commitment and passion for social and environmental responsibility both locally and abroad. Our inspiration comes from the multitude of organic purveyors we source from, organizations that share our ethos, and most importantly, the farmers who grow our cocoa beans in places far from Seattle.
What makes your business stand out?Theo catalyzed the current renaissance in artisan chocolate making in the US, establishing the first organic, fair trade, bean to bar factory in North America in 2006. We make our chocolate using only organic cocoa beans, organic sugar and organic cocoa butter -- never compromising our commitment to creating the highest quality chocolate available. As a brand, we are also working to make delicious, organic chocolate available to everyone -- rather than an exclusive few. We believe this is the true spirit of American Made. In addition, we recognize we are all citizens of the world and actively work to train farmers in origin countries where cocoa is grown, providing them with resources and training required to achieve quality standards that will command higher prices on the world cocoa market. More than 50% of our current cocoa supply comes from the DRC, a region of the world that has been devastated by poverty, disease and violence.
What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?Know who you are, and what you have to offer that is unique. We often hear the words "We want to be like Theo -- you have such a great story!" We all have a story worth telling, and if you want to wrap that story around a product or service, be crystal clear about your message, your vision and why you are inspired to share it. At Theo, we ascribe to the belief that if we all took a little bit less, everyone would have a little bit more. As pioneers in the realm of "sustainable business" we encourage other entrepreneurial spirits to incorporate values that reflect a "triple bottom line" approach to business, valuing people, planet and profit equally -- rather than prioritizing profit at the expense of the health of our world and our common humanity.
What does American Made mean to you?As a US manufacturer, we have the opportunity to contribute to our local economy, while reflecting the values that make us who we are. We are proud of the commitment we have made to local sourcing, partnering with organizations that promote social and environmental accountability in our food system, and cultivating meaningful connections within our community. As a brand, Theo aspires to set the best possible example of American Made by holding ourselves to a standard of excellence in all that we do.
Mark Your Calendar
NOMINATIONS ENDAug. 31, 2015
Final day for entering the Audience Choice Award competition.
VOTING ENDSOct. 19, 2015
Final day to cast your vote for your favorite makers.
WINNERS ANNOUNCEDOct. 23, 2015
2015 Editors' Award Winners and Audience Choice Winner announced.See past Award Winners
AMERICAN MADE SUMMITNov. 7, 2015
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