Mikki Chewz is a black and female-owned chocolatier company that works with sustainable and ethically sourced chocolate to directly raise awareness for mental health. The company understands that the chocolate industry giants face ethical problems with wages and slave labor, so Mikki Chewz uses chocolate that helps pay a better living wage to workers, and it practices sustainability. Mikki Chewz believes that consumers should spend their money on ethical and sustainable products to support small companies and help them flourish.
Loyola University Chicago
The innovation comes in the circular chocolate that’s packed with a variety of flavors and ingredients. The aptly named “chews” are handcrafted using sustainably sourced chocolate from a local company using all organic ingredients. Ingredients range from vanilla to even dried banana chips, and all of the chews are devoid of preservatives or fillers that large companies use to dilute the chocolate and use less cacao.
The Mikki Chewz’s earliest incarnation happened at a 5th-grade science fair where Mikaela Turner, the founder, was tasked to either complete a research project or create an invention. As a chocolate lover, she decided to try her hand at making a new candy and it became a hit. She brought her 5th-grade version to Kendall College, one of the top culinary schools at the time. The chews developed and improved along with Turner’s understanding of business. It’s where she learned about sustainable chocolate and the horrors of the chocolate industry with unethical and unsustainable practices that hurt not only farmers but also the environment. Through her desire for positive change, Kendall College’s business incubator program and both her parents’ encouragement, Turner pushed to make her 5th-grade idea a viable business.
The chocolate Mikki Chewz creates is Fair Trade certified, meaning that it empowers farmers and workers by paying at least a living wage and works to cover the cost of maintaining sustainable production. Along with a better wage, a Fair Trade certification protects working conditions by preserving the right for collective bargaining and ensuring no forced labor. Mikki Chewz also raises awareness of mental health by partnering with an organization that provides mental health care in Chicago. Turner notes that her company has opened the conversation about mental health in the black community and recalls people thanking her for raising awareness about mental health.
Using Fair Trade chocolate ensures there’s a sustainable supply chain for future chocolatiers. It enables investing in sources that ensure farmers have a better living wage and a proper incentive to use sustainable practices in growing crops. Investing in the community by partnering with local organizations also raises Mikki Chewz's local profile while having a positive impact within the neighborhood.
The creation of Mikki Chewz is centered around sustainability while also raising awareness about mental health. A portion of profits are directly donated to NAMI Chicago, an organization that “promotes community wellness, breaks down barriers to mental health care and provides support and expertise for families, professionals and individuals in Chicago and beyond.” NAMI not only connects people to treatment but also provides services for legal and housing assistance alongside educating communities about wellness. Mental health is often an overlooked aspect of health in the broader sense, but Mikki Chewz works to open that conversation in the black community around Chicago by removing the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental health. Turner's work is seen through the partnership with NAMI Chicago, as well as the frankness and openness with which Turner speaks to the realities of mental health problems.
Fair Trade certified chocolate promotes sustainable food production systems by providing an incentive for small farmers to achieve a more sustainable way of farming by increasing their profits through prices that take into account sustainable practices. Through higher prices for their crop, it shows local, small farmers the worth of sustainability and helps ensure land and soil quality through such practices. Higher wages also promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth by giving farmers more ways to invest in their product and their communities. The certification also ensures that there is no forced or child labor when it comes to production. It also gives workers the right to collectively bargain which can directly go towards ensuring a safer working environment as well as equal pay.
Mikaela Turner, Owner
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Chicago, IL, US
Business Website: https://mikkichewz.com
Year Founded: 2018
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
Mikki Chewz is a black and female-owned chocolatier company that makes products with sustainably and ethically sourced chocolate while also seeking to raise awareness about mental health. The company understands that the chocolate industry giants face ethical problems, such as low wages to workers and child or forced labor, so Mikki Chewz practices sustainability and uses Fair Trade chocolate that helps pay a living wage to farmers. The company believes that consumers should spend their money on ethical and sustainable products that will support small companies and help them flourish.