Top 7 Under 40: Ariana Lee-Newman

For as long as she can remember Ariana Lee-Newman, 38, has wanted to make a positive impact on the world.

Lee-Newman was born in the small town of Lander Wyoming. She earned her bachelor’s in political science with a minor in business from Montana State University, before moving to Bellingham.

“I always wanted to do philanthropic work and business work so I knew I would find a way to combine the two,” Lee-Newman said.

From 2006-08 Lee-Newman worked full-time while earning her masters of business administration from Western Washington University.

From 2010-16 she was the brand manager for Barlean’s where she gained valuable insight on the intricacies of marketing and how product moved or didn’t. In January of 2016, Lee-Newman and her husband founded BIJA Chocolate.

“I realized products could change the world,” Lee-Newman said. “In our case cacao as a way to educate people on the human cost of food and to try to bridge the gap between the people doing the work to make the chocolate and the consumer.”

By working with more than 200 women in the Dominican Republic and Peru the business ensures that their success promotes community growth in developing countries. The organic chocolate company is changing how cacao is sourced.

“Our desire was to purchase directly from women to ensure that the money we spend goes back to them directly,” Lee-Newman said. “We knew that if we invested in women that they would reinvest in their families and their communities.”

In July of 2019, BIJA successfully rebranded to become K’ul Chocolate which continues its mission to support communities in the developing world. Their efforts have had a direct, positive impact on over 25,000 people.

Currently, we are working towards supporting 24 woman’s cooperatives throughout the equatorial belt by 2025, Lee-Newman said.

In addition to her work through K’ul, Lee-Newman works with a variety of organizations that strengthen the Whatcom County Community.

She currently serves on the board of directors for the Whatcom Center for Early Learning which helps children under the age of three with speech development.

Lee-Newman collaborates with organizations that share values similar to K’ul. She is an active supporter of Our Treehouse, Whatcom Woman in Business, Girls on the Run and the Whatcom Land Trust.

“I think what I have realized through the process of creating this chocolate company is that we are so often our own limiters in terms of what we can accomplish,” Lee-Newman said. “I think young professionals need to stick with what they believe in and don’t stop when it gets tough, there is always a way forward.”

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