Seattle is a city that leads in tech, food, culture, music, and much more. We have a tight-knit community of businesses, artists, weirdos, hipsters, start-ups, families, and all kinds of folks who find the Pacific Northwest to be the perfect, rainy home. And among them, our entrepreneurs are on the rise — starting companies that not only fuel the local economy but go a step further and make it even better. Check out these 5 inspiring entrepreneurs who are impacting Seattle and beyond.
1. Joe Whinney, Founder, and Debra Music, CMO, of Theo’s Chocolate
A local favourite in Seattle, Theo’s Chocolate is known for their variety of sweets ranging from chili dark chocolate bars to salted vanilla caramels. They were one of the first local companies to source their ingredients directly from farmers in other countries, paying top dollar to get the best cocoa beans and help the communities out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, and Panama. Sadly, the harvesting of the cocoa bean has lead to rainforest destruction, child labour, and impoverished farmers — and very rich companies. Their ethics and approach, “from bean to bar,” has earned them recognition by The New York Times, The Guardian, and Forbes Travel — among many awards. This makes it an easy choice to buy from Theo’s, and both locals and tourists are arriving in droves, not only feasting on the finest chocolate but sending a clear message to the biggest chocolate companies by voting with their money.
2. Nick Huzar, CEO of OfferUp
Nick Huzar, a Bellevue local, started an app after struggling to sell spare items while trying to make room for a growing family. OfferUp was born and is one of the best new apps of this year, being a cross between eBay and Craigslist. If you want to know if anyone in the area is selling a bicycle, for example, just type it in and set your location. OfferUp will pull up all the local listings, where on the map they are, and the price the seller wants to sell it for. It’s making it too easy to buy or sell something, helping locals connect with each other, tightening the community, and making it easy to buy a used item locally rather than buy something brand new, which translates into less trash, less waste, and more money into your neighbours’ hands.
3. Jack Kelly of Caffe Ladro and Jeff Babcock of Zoka Coffee
Besides being known for great coffee and delicious pastries, the owners of these two cafes have been working behind the scenes to help others. They work with a region in El Salvador to buy the coffee directly from the area to help support the locals. A percentage of the sales of the coffee gets donated directly to needs the town may have, such as a new school. They’re proof that Seattle is so much more than Starbucks, not only in serving up quality coffee but also in the fact that we have local coffee shops helping others in less privileged countries as well.
4. Molly Moon Neitzel, CEO of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream
The constant line out the door makes this ice cream shop with unique flavors like lavender honey easy to find. Molly herself has worked hard to make this one of Seattle’s most famous shops for other reasons though. Ninety percent of the ingredients are locally sourced, helping out Seattle’s community at the forefront. For example, the lavendar honey ice cream is sourced from honey in the Olympic Mountains and lavender from Sequim. The ice cream containers also happen to be 100 percent compostable, contributing to a better environment. Next time you get a scoop from there, you can feel good knowing you’re not only eating a tasty treat, but helping our locals across the state stay in business.
5. Stephan Banchero III, Cedar Grove Composting
Composting has become huge in Seattle as people are realizing its benefits: 40% of most trash is organic and can go back to the earth and not a landfill (where it becomes methane gas and not nutrient rich soil), and compose can be used to fertize plants, grow veggies, and continue a beautiful cycle. Cedar Grove’s policy is to have as close to zero waste as possible, and locals are responding to this call. This company is also giving back to the community in other ways though: “Seeds For Scholars” is a scholarship program they started giving four local high school seniors a $2500 scholarship and the potential for a paid summer internship. The company also donates their soil to local gardens and food banks to further help the community.