Willy Wonka with a philanthropic streak—that's how you might describe direct-trade chocolate entrepreneur Shawn Askinosie
, who recruited a lucky group of kids to create his latest confection. In 2009 the candy maker started Cocoa Honors
, an 18-month bean-to-bar program for a baker's dozen of juniors at Central High in Springfield, Missouri (home of the Askinosie plant). "I hoped to get a bright group of students thinking about business ethics in a way that might have ripple effects for generations," he says.
In weekly meetings, the Cocoa Honors team got a crash course in the chocolate arts—from field to factory, marketing to profit sharing—and eventually traveled to rural Tenende, Tanzania, to meet with the farmers' co-op that supplied their beans. There they worked with philanthropist Doug Pitt (brother of Brad) to provide 2,000 villagers with a freshwater well, tank, and windmill; now they're fund-raising to buy textbooks for kids in Tenende. "I always visit the countries I work with, but I'd never done anything like this," Askinosie says. He adds, proudly, "The students learned that you don't have to just show up, do business, and leave." (The Tanzania bar
is now available at Whole Foods
and specialty stores.)
"The experience solidified how I imagine myself in the future," says Cocoa Honors graduate Bryn Prater (left
), who's taking a year off before college to return to Tanzania, where she'll help raise scholarship money for local kids. "I know I'm going to spend my career working with others to give back."
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