Jane Metcalfe: From Tech to TCHO

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Jane Metcalfe is the co-founder of the Wired brand, including Wired magazine, Wired TV, Wired Books, and the Wired Digital suite of websites. After creating the company now known and respected across the technology world and beyond, Metcalfe has shifted her focus to developing a new kind of business: sustainable chocolate production.

A truly eclectic entrepreneur, she has taken on the task of revamping the way chocolate is produced and how cocoa farmers in other countries are treated. Jane now serves on the boards of the University of California Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and the UC Berkeley Foundation. She is a founding board member of the One Economy Corporation: an international non-profit whose mission is to use media and technology to help low income people accumulate assets and join the economic mainstream. Read on to find out what drives her.

What do you do and why?

On the most prosaic level, I make and sell super premium, artisan chocolate. Taking that up a notch, I’m building a new chocolate brand for the 21st century, one that is based on customer delight, innovation and making a better world.  But really, the way I think about it, I’m in the happiness business. There are over 700 bioactive compounds in chocolate, many of which are known to activate hormones and neurotransmitters which produce feelings of happiness, satisfaction and love. Getting someone to slow down and savor the different flavors in chocolate is like encouraging them to be mindful, indulgent, playful and sexy all at once. That’s the happiness business!

Which quality or talent makes you most successful?

I think laughter and optimism are my best attributes, but I am also fearless, work like a maniac, and endeavor to put myself and our company in a position to get lucky.

Being able to see the desired outcome so vividly that other people can see it too, is critical to success as an entrepreneur.

Who are the three people who most inspire you and why?

Well, what list of inspiring people would be complete without Steve Jobs at the head? He inspires me as a designer, as an entrepreneur, and because he has completely transformed at least 5 industries. But really the thing that inspires me the most about him is the way he has unleashed individual creativity — and power — by making really cool tools.

The people who inspire me the most are my family. I think my partner Louis, as well as our two children, Orson and Zoe, are infinitely talented and smart and good. All three of them are fearless. Our belief in each other fuels us all.

What are you most passionate about?

I love the leading edge, being out in front, seeing over the horizon. I also love organizations on the edge of transformation. And chocolate.

What drives you to succeed?

Some people just want to work on things that are already working. For whatever reason, I’ve always focused on the thing that’s broken, or the thing that doesn’t exist yet, but should. The thing that’s broken in the chocolate business is that the vast majority of the world’s cocoa farmers have never ever tasted chocolate, let alone chocolate made from their own beans. TCHO makes direct investments, and knowledge and technology transfers, that enable farmers to make better beans, which we then pay them a premium for. We also refuse to buy beans from countries who haven’t stomped out slavery, and are doing our best to drive demand for organic and sustainably harvested beans. The thing that drives me to succeed is knowing that every day, my effort to grow this company benefits cocoa farming families, creates jobs, raises awareness of issues like slavery, fair trade, organic food, and economic literacy. Those are some pretty powerful motivators.

Visit the TCHO chocolate site to see more of what Jane Metcalfe is accomplishing here (link), and taste the experience for yourself.

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