Show up for life. In one variance or another, that was the ideal all the Eastside women we interviewed expressed. Fear and self-doubt tend to hover over us, hindering us from doing the things we want to do. As Microsoft engineer Tammarrian Rogers put it: Those thoughts are part of the human condition. Acknowledge them and let them pass.
These women — a city council member, a multimillion dollar entrepreneur, a tech engineer, the owner of a health care group, a chocolate connoisseur, and a nonprofit founder — are making a mark on the Eastside. And because they’ve dared to be themselves and take some risks, they’re making an impact.
Changing lives one person at a time
So often, the most challenging times in our lives become the seed that cracks open and blossoms into something beautiful. That happened to Andrea Duffield when she was stepping away from a relationship and having to support herself and her 3-week-old daughter.
The life she envisioned splintered. And if it hadn’t, she never would have pursued a master’s degree and wouldn’t be running her own business. For the past 10 years, she’s been growing Mosaic Children’s Therapy, a group with several Eastside locations, which offers physical, occupational, speech and language, nutrition, behavioral consultation, and psychological therapy services for children from birth through young adulthood.
Mosaic began as part of a business plan for Duffield’s final MBA project. At the time, she was working remotely for a skilled nursing facility based in Vancouver, Washington, formerly known as Evergreen Health Care, and the company was interested in Duffield’s plan to start an outpatient therapy clinic. So, in 2003, Evergreen opened its first outpatient therapy clinic in Lynnwood. When Duffield branched off from Evergreen and opened Mosaic as a private group roughly five years later, she had about 20 employees. Now she has more than 100. In 2014, Mosaic was earmarked by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S., and last year Duffield was honored as the Nellie Cashman Woman Business Owner of the Year by the Women Business Owners, a Seattle-based business group.
After high school, Duffield, now 47, remembers working at the international cosmetic and skincare company The Body Shop in the Saskatchewan province of southern Canada, and was talking with a customer who came in to browse the products. Duffield confessed that she was about to attend college, but wasn’t sure what she wanted to major in. The customer invited Duffield to stop by her office and get a glimpse of the work she did as a speech therapist. Intrigued, Duffield took her up on it.
“I don’t know if that (the visit) cemented (my decision to go into speech therapy) at the time,” Duffield said. “I was trying to see what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. Something in me just thought, ‘Well, that felt good.’ I liked the idea of elementary education, but the idea to work one-on-one felt really impactful. I think I’ve always been fairly grassroots in how I think about things and helping on an individual basis.”
Duffield did become a speech therapist, working primarily with the elderly, but it wasn’t until she left her husband that she decided to move beyond clinician work. As a speech therapist, her income had a ceiling. She could only serve so many clients in a day, and she knew she needed to earn more to support herself and her daughter comfortably. A little encouraging from her employer, Joe Meadows, helped Duffield figure out that next step. Obtaining her master’s degree and opening that first outpatient clinic with Evergreen Health Care led Duffield to Mosaic. Her mentors — both previous employers — saw a strength and capability in her that she didn’t know she had.
When she started Mosaic, Duffield had strong feelings of self-doubt, or “impostor syndrome,” for a long time, and the feeling still lingers today when her company is expanding. But she has a lot of strong support, including her current husband, who also is a business owner. And she tries to impart her knowledge on the women around her and be the type of mentor she had.
“About 90 percent of my employees are women, and I work really hard to do things that empower the other women and see the things they can do,” she said. “I’ve done some public speaking on the confidence gap, and how for women, we’re raised or we choose to believe that it’s just about being competent at things, that if you work really hard that’ll be enough. The reality is you have to have confidence as well. We raise our women to not have the same amount of confidence as men. There’s study after study about this.”
“It’s not just about competence; it’s about confidence and believing in yourself and putting yourself out there. Trying and taking risks is OK. We only learn at the things we fail at.”
Another passion of hers is volunteering on the board for a nonprofit school in Peru that offers education to special needs children. Before the school opened, children with disabilities couldn’t attend school, and now they’re getting vocational training and are being offered jobs in the community.
“Bettering the lives
of those we serve”
For Duffield, speech pathology is about being able to communicate, whether it’s basic needs and wants, to influence people, or just to get your point across. Whether it’s a child trying to acquire a language or an elderly adult who can’t communicate, it’s frustrating not to be able to do so. It’s rewarding to watch clients make big or small gains, she said.
In her Bellevue office, Duffield keeps a multicolored folder with pictures clients have drawn. Near the bottom of the pile, was a group camp photo from a few years ago. Among the kids clustered together was Kyle, a former client who passed away about a year after the photo was taken. Kyle had an indelible impact on Duffield’s life, and she shared stories about him in a speech at a Women Business Owners event.
“Kyle was obsessed with time,” Duffield said in her speech. “And as his therapists, we tried to not let that interfere with his life. He always made sure to let us know how late we were or how long he’d been waiting. I would challenge him in therapy to wait down the hall as he’d stare down the clock, or I’d challenge him to take off his watch, which was just crazy talk. Maybe we need to look at Kyle’s focus on time to help us be more mindful, to live in the moment we’re in and not let a moment be neglected.”
Kyle had suffered a traumatic brain injury during birth and had undergone countless surgeries throughout his life. Duffield had worked with him from age 14 until he passed away from a seizure on Halloween in 2013 at age 18. Kyle had to fight for every triumph, whether it was tying his shoes, buttoning a shirt, or writing a letter. But he was the sweetest, kindest person, Duffield said, and he was funny and caring and a good listener.
“All the things we complain about that are hard, or I don’t want to do this or that, but they’re not hard,” she said. “When it takes weeks or months to learn to tie a shoe, that’s hard. When you go to school and have to struggle so hard to learn things and have people treat you differently, but you still smile when you see someone and you’re funny and happy, that’s hard. My life isn’t hard. I think someone like Kyle gives me so much appreciation for the blessings that I have. Was it hard being a single mom and working and going to school? Yeah. It was hard. But it’s not the same hard that other people have.”
City councilwoman helps shape the future of Bellevue
Fifteen years ago, the tech scene in Bellevue was barely visible to the outside world. Microsoft didn’t have much of a presence there, and Expedia was a fairly small company. Finance, insurance, real estate, and legal services dominated Bellevue’s economy, as did retail. Going back even further, when Jennifer Robertson, 48, was in middle school, the city was building higher into the skyline with the reopening of the multistory Bellevue Square mall. Now Robertson jokes that the crane is the city’s official bird because of the seemingly endless growth and construction.
Robertson is one of the people you can thank for Bellevue’s beauty. Many of the little things that help make the city a better place are in part due to the work she does as a Bellevue City Council member. The light rail, the sky bridge in Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square, and intelligent traffic lights are just a few of the projects she’s worked on.
Robertson is serving her third term with the council. Prior to that, she was on the planning commission for six years and currently works in municipal law. She’s one of the faces behind ensuring Bellevue stays true to its name — beautiful.
Drawn to the highly acclaimed schools and well-run city government, Robertson moved to Bellevue with her family in 2002, two years after stepping back from practicing law in Seattle. In 2003, her political career emerged.
When the $3 billion light rail project was in its infancy, Robertson was on the planning commission and was tapped to co-chair the Bellevue Light Rail Best Practices Committee.
“It was one of the reasons I ran for council, because we were right in the middle of it,” Robertson said. “I had done so much work on the best practices committee and planning committee. … It was a major part of my first two terms.”
In the original blueprints of its course from Seattle to Bellevue, the light rail was going to intersect with major streets in the heart of downtown Bellevue. Robertson is one of the people who helped alter that.
“I’ve been, some would say, a fierce advocate, some would say stubborn, about keeping it out of traffic,” she said. “My year of study showed it was a benefit for the light rail itself and better for traffic. You’ve seen cars that get stuck in the intersection. With crossings come slow-downs and risk to pedestrians and risk to (the light rail) if it has an issue or is stuck in an intersection and is blocking traffic. I didn’t want a $3 billion investment to get stuck in traffic.”
She also helped co-author the city’s 20-year plan — a challenging process that is constantly being tweaked.
“It’s such an amazing time to be a woman in the United States. You can achieve at the highest level, and you have lots of options. (If) you transition to a full-time mom, know that you can have it all, but not necessarily all at once. There are seasons in life, and you should enjoy and embrace the season that you’re in.”
In determining priorities, the council is dedicated to finding new ways to improve safety, adding to the arts and entertainment sector, managing growth and ensuring the quality of life for current residents. When mapping out the future, Robertson thinks about her three children. Will Bellevue be the kind of place they want to live in?
“I’d like them to have a place that they can have the amenities they want: parks, good police and fire services, reasonable cost of living, and access to good jobs and transportation,” she said. “Transportation is one of those key things.”
Robertson’s term with the council ends in 2019, and she’s yet to decide whether she wants to pursue another.
“It’s really rather humbling to have the support of voters three times and to have the trust of the people to do the right thing,” she said. “I find the work very interesting and rewarding in itself. … Local government, I like to call it the government of first resort. It’s those government layers that affect life more than any other layers. To make sure that it’s done right is important to me.”
Powerhouse entrepreneur set out to solve toddler mishaps
Sari Davidson started her now multi-million-dollar company at her kitchen table in San Ramon, California, with an $80 sewing machine from Target, determined to solve the “BooginHead” factor.
A BooginHead is a term Davidson’s family coined when someone does something they shouldn’t, but it makes you laugh. Davidson’s BooginHead was her 1-year-old son, Jake, throwing his sippy cups to the ground again and again. They got dirty, they got lost, and Davidson was fed up. That’s how the SippiGrip was created. It’s basically a leash for sippy cups with a gripping material that wraps around the neck of the cup, and the other end attaches to a stroller or high chair.
The project was put on hold when Microsoft recruited her for its human resources department, and her family moved to Bellevue. Shortly after, Oprah Winfrey and the QVC home-shopping network announced they were hosting a contest to discover an innovative product. So, she flew to Los Angeles to participate.
The simple solution caught the attention of a QVC employee who told her the product wasn’t right for them, but that Davidson was on to something. In September 2007, Davidson, now 43, launched BooginHead at a trade show in Las Vegas, where she was approached by Target to be part of its parent-invented products program. SippiGrip was a major success, but when the market crashed in 2008, she was told Target couldn’t carry her product anymore.
“That was really disappointing,” Davidson said. “But I still have some relationships from some of the people in the program that I’ve kept in contact with.
“The learning experience of how to ship with a large manufacturer forced me to get a warehouse. All those operational things helped push me forward to grow the company, and the money (I earned from Target) helped grow the company.”
She was still working full-time at Microsoft and spent weekends and vacations pushing BooginHead forward. She was working with the hardware division for Xbox and Xbox Live, where the senior vice president, Todd Holmdahl, always said, “Innovate or die.” That ideal pushed her to develop BooginHead’s second product, the PaciGrip, which carried the company to the success it has now. It was the first universal pacifier clip that could be hooked onto a child’s clothing.
Babies R Us picked them up in 2008, and in 2010, BooginHead reached $1 million in sales. After that milestone, Davidson was encouraged by co-workers to break away from Microsoft and solely focus on BooginHead.
“I was the sole breadwinner of my family, and I had all the benefits and everything resting on my shoulders,” Davidson said. “I had a lot of fear to leave the security of Microsoft. I enjoyed my time there.”
Since then, BooginHead has expanded with several more toddler-related products, including bibs, mats, kids’ dining sets, and plush PaciPals that clip onto pacifiers. This year, the company is on track to make $4 million in profits and have products available in Target, Walmart, Babies R Us, and recently Rite Aid — as well as smaller retail stores.
“I never think small, ever,” she said. “I so much never think small that I never even considered selling (SippiGrip) at a fair or someplace where I pop a little tent up at a community gathering. For me, I thought, somebody’s going to do this, so it might as well be me. I personally believe that (entrepreneurship) is something in your blood. It’s like a sickness. You can’t not do it. Before SippiGrip, I’d never created a product, I had no marketing background, but I knew I would figure out a way to get it done. I always had the intention of it being sold in a store in a large way.”
One of the reasons BooginHead’s been so successful is the quick turn-around for products. Davidson’s team hasn’t exceeded 10 employees yet and she owns her company 100 percent, so they’ve eliminated a lot of the “fluff,” as she calls it, for decision-making.
“You can’t skimp on a good lawyer, especially if it involves patents or trademarks. Get yourself aligned with a really good business lawyer from the start because it will save a lot of heartache down the line.”
“When I was at Microsoft, we’d be at a meeting to talk about what we’d talk about at the next meeting,” she said. But at BooginHead, everything is streamlined to quickly flow products through from conceptions to the shelves. The super power collection the company developed in November 2015 was available at Babies R Us, for example, by September 2016.
“I’m just so proud that we are where we are after 10 years,” she said, gleaming as she sipped coffee at her Bellevue home. “We’re profitable. We’re growing. We’re successful, and I have a team that’s super dedicated and loves the company as much I do.”
Things have come a long way from Davidson hand-sewing products with boxes ready to ship stacked to the garage rafters in her home. But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been worried they’d fold.
In 2013, BooginHead ran into issues with the first iteration of the reusable Squeez’Ems food pouch. It had a manufacturing and design flaw — the flip-top would sometimes open on its own — and a flood of negative reviews came pouring in on Amazon. BooginHead found a new manufacturer and redesigned the product to have a screw-top lid before re-releasing it to the market. Davidson said they felt the pain of that issue for a while, but the company bounced back.
Hitting the 10-year mark, and knowing how to ride the peaks and valleys, has made Davidson resilient.
She still considers Marc Whitten, formerly at Microsoft and now at Amazon, one of her mentors. Before she left Microsoft, he sat her down and said he’d always be there if she needed something. And she’s passionate about paying that forward. If entrepreneurs contact her, especially women, she carves out time to answer their questions.
One of the most rewarding parts about running her own business is knowing that her products have a direct impact on easing parents’ lives. It’s the little things, like having a leash for a sippy cup or a pacifier so your toddler isn’t constantly throwing it to the ground. She’s also noticed that just being a single mom who owns a successful business has inspired other women to pursue their dreams.
“It takes a lot of work, but you can do it,” she said, a message to women who want to start their own company. “You don’t need to have a lot of venture capital or do a startup campaign. There are ways to do it on your own if you want to.”
Microsoft engineer aims to bring more diversity to tech industry
Tammarrian Rogers didn’t want to go into the tech field. When she was growing up, she wanted to work in construction. She wanted to be outside, building things and working with her hands. And when she was a little older, she wanted to be a hands-on healer.
At a summer internship at the historically black Tuskegee University in Alabama, she was introduced to programming, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering.
“It was a great environment for me at Tuskegee, and it helped to be among others who were very much like me, sitting in that room,” she said. “In the rooms where I am exploring all these different types of engineering and S.T.E.M.-related fields, it did not bother me that I was the only female — or just (one of) a handful of females — because I was around so many different people growing up because my father was in the military.”
Rogers went on to earn a master’s degree from Stanford University in electrical and electronics engineering, was a hardware engineer at Apple, and has spent the last 23 years at Microsoft. She currently works in the Windows Division and connects with customers to build better products.
To many, she’s likely an anomaly in the tech industry — there’s a warmth and outgoing aura about her. Rogers goes way against the grain of a stereotypical tech engineer, which probably is what makes her such an inviting mentor and public speaker. The recent board member for the Seattle-based Ada Developers Academy is among those championing diversity in the tech industry and fostering women and nonbinary or transgender people to become coders. She’s spoken at UC Berkeley, Women in Tech, Ignite Seattle, and other places about management in tech companies, women in tech companies, and how to maintain human connection through technology. And to top it off, she’s also a fierce racquetball player with more than 10 national gold medals as a member of the USA Racquetball Association, and she is a member of the Washington State Racquetball Association. She first started playing in fifth grade, when her mom took her to her racquetball class at a community college.
Until her work with Ada, Rogers wasn’t an activist in the typical sense.
“My activism has been existing,” she said. “My activism has been being OK with whoever I am and being me wherever I go. And being a gay, black woman, that alone I figure I’m doing good. (Working with Ada has given me) an opportunity to have an impact that means so much more than writing a line of code.”
Bringing more diversity to the tech industry
There’s a heavy weight that comes with being one of few people of color at a company. The benefits of having a diverse workforce aren’t realized unless everyone shows up as “their authentic selves,” Rogers said. And when you’re a person of color, there’s often an immense pressure to be a good representation of your race or ethnicity.
“I can tell you there isn’t a person of color who hasn’t felt that way,” she said, which is one of many obstacles for any person of color in the workplace. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a conversation where people tell me, ‘Well, we had another black woman,’ or ‘the last one we had’ — because bridges get burned. (They say,) ‘We don’t want any more trouble.’”
A lot of barriers stand between women of color and a career in tech, and Rogers investigated a few of those issues while trying to understand why so many women of color were dropping out of the Ada program.
When she joined the advisory board in 2015, Rogers interviewed the women who dropped out and their peers in the program, and those findings helped launch better practices. They realized the women — often women of color — who weren’t connected to the tech industry before being accepted into the intensive, seven-month program were struggling. They already were at a disadvantage from their peers who could seek help from friends or family outside of the Ada network. Many of the other issues that led to them dropping out snowballed from there — asking questions in class and needing an Ada tutor often made them feel like an outcast.
Ada integrated a jump-start program that gives students a baseline of knowledge before the regular academy starts, hired a school psychologist to provide mental and emotional support to students, and brought in an expert to investigate how to be more inclusive.
Rogers half-jokes that her work as a mentor to some of the Ada students is selfish. She learns just as much from her mentees as they learn from her. Rogers joined the board to help herself get through her father’s suicide in February 2015. The work helped pull her through the grief and gave her a platform to help create change.
Rogers said, for the most part, her career as a minority in tech has been really positive, and she credits that to her family’s military background. Until attending Tuskegee University, she was always one of the only black students in her class.
“Invest in connecting with others, especially those that don’t look or act or think like you. You don’t know what surprise waits.”
“I have basically grown up with people who don’t look like me,” she said. “That’s proven to be an advantage for me. It makes it easy for me to go into any environment where people don’t look like me, and I feel very comfortable.”
Diversity makes a difference
The tech industry wants to change, Rogers said, but it can be difficult for companies to see how a diverse team translates to the bottom line. Having a diverse group of people does result in better products, though, she said.
An example of a product that benefited from a diverse team was Publisher in the late 1990s, when the employees of color found issues.
“For example, we had clip art that if you searched for monkey, black people came up,” she said. “Maybe someone thought it was a good joke, but it has to be coded. It has to be done intentionally. But it happens.”
Unintentional product problems happen more often for users that have disabilities, or even for those who aren’t tech-savvy.
“The way diversity makes better products is taking into account the different ways of thinking and being into a product,” she said. “If you have a lot of people who are very similar, have the same values and interests and same way of living, it’s very difficult to put on a different hat and become a different type of person, and from that angle influence the product in that way. But if you have someone who’s already wearing that hat and bringing their whole self to work, they can influence that design more naturally.”
A product designed by a diverse group attracts a diverse group of people because it fits the needs of more individuals, she said.
In a joke-infused speech she gave at Ignite Seattle last year, Rogers imparted that, to her, inclusion means connecting to the people around you. When she interviewed at Microsoft in 1993, the 12-hour day was mostly spent getting to know who she was. On the second day, they introduced her to several Microsoft leaders, including Trish Millines Dziko, a gay, black woman, and the racquetball coordinator. They invested in her and connected with her, she said.
“Invest in connecting with others,” she said as her parting message during the Ignite speech. “Especially those that don’t look or act or think like you. You don’t know what surprise waits. But it’s so important for the sustainability of our humanity and our planet.”
Nonprofit founder seeks to end domestic violence
One in three women and one in four men are subject to domestic violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the abuse is often a slow progression — a nagging chain of messages demanding to know where you are, what you’re doing, and whom you are with.
People quickly find themselves in a terrifying and isolating situation with the person they love, and their abuse has become their new normal, said founder of the WAVE (Women Against Violence Everywhere) Foundation, Sharon Anderson. Before starting the foundation 6 years ago, she had no idea how difficult it is for people to leave an abusive relationship.
“It often takes seven times for a woman to leave the situation, and I understand why now,” Anderson said. “There’s so much involved. Finances have been pulled; you’re leaving everything you know that’s secure, even though it’s not safe. Or you have two or three children now. So often when you see the impact on your kids, that’s often the time women leave.”
Looking back, there certainly were people she knew who were in abusive situations, but unless you’re educated about the signs, they can be difficult to decode.
WAVE started as a group of moms who wanted to raise awareness for domestic violence. They knew they wanted to support other women, and many of them, including Anderson, had daughters who were growing up and heading off to college. So they started the Rising Star Guild and aligned with a local agency to donate needed items. Around the same time, Anderson formed an all-female cycling group called the Lakemont Ladies and had the idea to merge the two as a fundraiser for domestic violence.
For their first ride in 2006, they had 233 cyclists, and now it attracts thousands of female cyclists each year and requires hundreds of volunteers. They also host an auction event, Raise Your Glass, and a men’s march, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, with the University of Washington sorority Alpha Chi Omega. To date, they’ve raised roughly $1 million that’s been funneled to agencies throughout the state and is funding their most recent venture, Discovery of Power.
“No. 1, get involved. Learn about what the needs are; learn about a situation and how you can make an impact.”
The program fulfills the education portion of awareness Anderson has been grasping at since they started the foundation, but didn’t have the means to accomplish until last year. They merged with Fight the Fear, a nonprofit organization that connected women with free self-defense training and already had connections with Eastside schools. It was the perfect marriage, Anderson said, and they changed the name to Discovery of Power to reflect the education piece.
In the last year, they’ve worked with 85 K-12 schools and college campuses and have 23 teachers — 10 of whom are UW students — who go classroom-to-classroom and have open discussions about healthy and unhealthy relationships, the signs of abuse, and how or when to safely intervene.
One of the fraternities they work with, University of Washington’s Theta Chi, is out leading discussions about preventing abuse and working with Alpha Chi Omega to raise awareness and support the organization.
“We have to get the guys in the fight,” she said. “We have to get them in the process, because the thing is, like 95 percent or more of men out there are awesome, incredible men — it’s that 5 percent that are doing the abuse. It’s that 95 percent that we have to go get on board. And if something doesn’t feel right, act.”
Anderson, 61, is hoping to eventually expand WAVE throughout the state and beyond. It supported a cycling event in Oregon and one in Boston; she said both were great learning experiences, and she wants to have more rides throughout the country.
Since the inception of the foundation, Anderson has met so many inspiring and brave women who shared their stories of abuse. She’s seen women go from living in shelters to graduating college and thriving in society.
“There are a lot of bike rides out there, but we’re proud that the women who are out there know why they’re riding,” she said. “They know the cause and the power of women together. It’s incredible. After the first year, I realized that the event is more than just an event. It’s bringing women together for a purpose of accomplishment and comraderies of each other and just giving them a venue to feel empowered and strong, and the ability to do whatever they feel they can do in the future.”
Stay-at-home mom inspired by trip to Belize
Before leaving on a family trip to Belize in 2008, Erin Andrews had this unexplainable, overwhelming feeling that she was going to start a business while she was there. She had no idea what it was going to be, and she’d never had any desire to own a business before. But something in her just knew.
The impetus behind the trip was partially to teach her daughters that chocolate grows on trees, and to see the process of going from bitter cacao beans to a creamy bar of chocolate.
“One of the things that really impressed me is how really bright they are,” she said about the farmers she met. “They understand the complexities of what they’re doing unlike anything I had ever seen. The Mayan farmers have very old knowledge of what insects and trees and what fauna and foliage do — medicinal properties of plants and the best ways to grow cacao and what to plant with cacao.”
And thus, Andrews’ first chocolate company was born — Cotton Tree Chocolate — which she started with a business partner, US-based Jeff Pzena, she met on the trip. In 2008, Cotton Tree Chocolate began making minimal-ingredient chocolate from beans harvested in the area and sold locally. Andrews made trips back and forth from the states to Belize to help run the company, with plans to eventually open a small chocolate factory near her Sammamish home.
That first company was foundational to Indi Chocolate, the company Andrews, 48, currently owns and operates at Pike Place Market. In Belize, the company hired all women, giving them an economic opportunity they wouldn’t have had otherwise. The company philosophy was to put the money back into the people of the country.
In order to build the needed capital to buy chocolate-making equipment, Andrews started Indi Chocolate in 2010, selling lotions and lip balms made from pure cocoa butter at fairs and festivals.
“My daughter, Siena, had a reaction to body care when she was little,” Andrews said. “I was dismayed to see neurotoxins and estrogen inhibitors as ingredients in body care. I would get migraine headaches from synthetic smells, and I realized it was because of the neurotoxins. (Indi Chocolate) body care started as a reaction because I wanted something healthy. … I like to tell people I’m the most backwards chocolate company, because most people with chocolate companies started with chocolate.”
“Take an accounting course and know about your finances. And believe in yourself. The worst they’ll say is no. I just have to say, you can’t win if you don’t try.”
In 2013, Andrews opened a brick-and-mortar shop inside Pike Place Market selling bean-to-bar Indi Chocolate and body care. Indi has since expanded its product line to hand-crafted soaps, spice rubs, and tea that all contain cacao. The company also offers chocolate-making classes, mixology classes, and origin trips to the countries she sources beans from so customers can meet the farmers and see where their chocolate is grown.
“We’re really about total visibility, but also bringing the farmer closer to the consumer,” Andrews said.
But the most exciting change is the company’s new location on Western Avenue as part of the market’s expansion. The street-level storefront with room for a small chocolate factory is exactly the space Andrews has been waiting for since she started at Pike Place. Before opening the new space in late June, she found every excuse to walk across the street and watch her store transform from a skeleton of beams and concrete into a beautiful open-concept space with views of the industrial waterfront and the iconic Ferris wheel.
Andrews is reinventing the way people view cacao, and has added coffee beans into the mix with a café. They’re serving a host of caffeinated beverages, savory bites, sandwiches, and cocoa butter and coffee bean chocolate. Andrews said they purchased a little cocoa butter press and are creating more products with it.
Pike Place and Indi Chocolate are the perfect marriage, she said, because it allows them to have a strong connection with the community, and pair the freshest produce from the market with their chocolate.
“One thing we’re offering is a shot of molten chocolate, and I can think of nothing better than Washington berries to dip in it,” she said. “You can only do something like that at the Market. You need ingredients that are incredibly fresh.”
Andrews has purchased beans from roughly 12 countries and cycles the chocolate through her store. In the beginning, she networked to meet new farmers and build relationships, but now farmers reach out to her to have their beans featured as Indi Chocolate.
“I’ve seen people put additions on their houses as their family expands, or they have a daughter getting married and I get to see what they’re able to do for her. I’ve seen school uniforms being purchased. I’m seeing bicycles where people couldn’t afford bicycles before,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of things that sometimes we take for granted. It’s a joy to me being able to see the world through others’ eyes and to see that you can make a difference in other people’s lives.”
Occasionally, the company gets requests from communities abroad to have Andrews and her staff visit and teach residents how to make chocolate and sell it in the area. It’s an aspect of Indi that Andrews loves.
The business that led to Indi Chocolate was risky, Andrews said. She hadn’t spent a lot of time in the area and it was pretty remote, but ultimately, it was one of the best decisions she’d ever made.
“I try to use a regret minimization strategy — will I regret doing something more than I regret not doing something? That’s been my compass for Indi Chocolate,” she said. “If there’s something that I would either regret doing or regret not doing, which is stronger? … I think part of life is living. If you look through things in the prism of regret minimization, then things become clear very quickly.”