Cello Chocolate was founded by Ned and Debi Russell in 2013 and began as a home-operated chocolate company with the intent of not only providing quality chocolate with delicious flavor, but also paying a premium directly to the farmers that grow the cacao beans, ensuring aid to third-world and growing economies while building a relationship with each farmer. Cello Chocolate works with farmers from multiple countries to create 70% dark chocolate, single origin bars made with the same three ingredients: cacao beans, organic sugar, and cacao butter. The bars derive their flavor from the genes of the bean, unique to each home country.
Ned spent over 20 years in the chocolate industry, managing production at Ghirardelli for 12 of those years. Debi worked in sales and marketing for several years at Sybase, Oracle, and Apple Computers. For 6 years, they successfully ran the Cello Chocolate company, attracting audiences all over northern California. Ned and Debi’s vision was to donate the company to students and give Cello Chocolate a legacy. In 2018, they collaborated with a team of professors at Sierra College and developed a plan to make Cello Chocolate a tool to improve student education while supporting students’ goals. At the same time, Cello Chocolate would continue to support small farmers from different countries, ensuring the best standards of quality and that all funds would go to the farmers.
As of July 2019, Cello Chocolate was transferred to Cello Student Enterprises Inc: a 501c3 nonprofit business. This structure would ensure the goal and purpose of Cello Chocolate would be protected, while allowing for the growth of Cello Student Enterprises: reaching more students in more regions. Cello Student Enterprises Inc is the parent corporation that would provide guidance and support to Cello Chocolate chapters. This model is similar to a franchise model, but provides more flexibility on how chapters can be formed at other colleges.
Cello Chocolate is the first chapter founded under Cello Student Enterprises Inc that will operate with students from local northern California colleges and high schools. Cello Chocolate will use its resources to provide real operation management, marketing, finance, and culinary experience to students, allowing them to apply their education. Cello Chocolate operates in a completely vertically integrated model that: sources the raw materials, manages the supply chain, does production and packaging, markets the product, distributes, manages, and analyzes finances. This integration makes Cello Chocolate a multidisciplinary lab for students ranging in different areas of educational interest. This lab can include Marketing, IT, Finance, Design, and Law students. Because Cello Chocolate encourages a myriad of majors, students can gain experience in their specific area of interest.
Today, Cello Chocolate is living its mission: being chocolate that not only tastes good, it does good. This business gives students invaluable experience and all the company’s proceeds are used for student scholarships and other student-oriented philanthropic causes, all while ethically sourcing all our cacao beans, ensuring sustainability and creating jobs globally. Through our rich, handcrafted chocolate, we are able to build connections with people and communities around the world!