2015: A year of listening and co-creation

Wow, what a thrill and honor it has been to serve such a committed and passionate community of farmers, chocolate evangelists, change-makers, conservationists, advocates and community builders this year. First, we’d love to offer an enormous THANK YOU to our community of supporters, advisors and co-creators who have contributed to the Yellow Seed model and website design. Looking back on 2015, there is much to celebrate!




Listening and co-creation were strong themes of 2015.  To sow the seeds of collaborative market grounded in trust and relationship, we tuned in to hear the needs of our community of buyers, farmers and intermediaries. Over the last year and a half, Yellow Seed logged over 200 hours of stakeholder interviews, including over 35 design-related interviews with craft chocolate makers and supporting service intermediaries. From May to December 2014, we translated this insight into wireframes (150+ pages) that were reviewed by a diligent and committed team of 10 chocolate buyers, makers, and intermediaries. In January 2015, we stripped down features to the essentials and began developing the first website prototype. In May, we started beta tests with a small group of users to gather more feedback while iterating over the summer. This October, Yellow Seed launched the site visibly during the Northwest Chocolate Festival, with 10 product and Origin profiles representing about 3700 farmers and 1,225 MT cacao capacity combined.  Yellow Seed attended the Unconference event of the Northwest Chocolate Festival, held prior for farmers, makers and intermediaries to discuss ways to improve trade. There we heard the thirst for greater trust and transparency to improve trade, affirming our path. This winter, our first domestic and international sample requests and orders have been sent out and farmers and buyers engaged directly with one another via messaging on the site. We are currently automating transaction and payment features, while continually improving on basic site features. The list of product profiles continues to grow and everyday we receive new inquiries, preferences and requests.






We are grateful for such positive feedback and excitement from launching the first prototype. Here are a few highlights of what we have heard so far:

More and more chocolate makers that are looking for high quality beans and in smaller quantities so they are not as price sensitive. Essentially these makers want something unique but don’t know how to find buyers. This is the problem that Yellow Seed is trying to solve.” Greg D’Alesandre, Dandelion Chocolate

Excellent. Simple to use, but full of information. Didn’t seem overwhelming, yet it got the story and point across.Lauren Adler, Chocolopolis commenting on the first impressions.

Great idea, the site is working beautifully! I had no problem loading up photos and completing our profile, all really easy with a great flow. The tools that are there are amazing. For us, a great opportunity to learn about other aspects of selling cacao and for those who are buying it, a great way to dig deeper and find out what the producers are all about. Congratulations on this effort! Tuta Aquino, Producer ~ Prime Cacao, Brazil

I think you have a great pilot product right here.  [For this current version] I wouldn’t change, add, or edit anything.” Emily Stone, Maya Mountain Cacao





Of course we have a long wish list of features and services to add to the Yellow Seed website, based on interviews and insight from the community. Below is a glimmer of what’s ahead over the next few months:

(1) Add more farmers with product profiles and farm stories.

(2) Create user profiles for buyer and service intermediaries so they become visible to the community and can share their stories.

(3) Improve and automate website transaction and payment systems.

(4) Expand product options beyond beans to include  cacao nibs, liquor and paste for other chocolate buyers.

(5) Enhance communication tools on the website and test new applications to support feedback between farmers and buyers.

(6) Design criteria set and ratings to improve transparency, trust and verification of information between buyers, farmers, consumers with the community. (See Collaborative Trade Initiative below)


Learn more about Yellow Seed and our priorities for 2016 by viewing our orientation guide.



Year in Review_YS Review


Yellow Seed’s model for Collaborative Trade aims to create a system for wholeness, where everyone impacted by a system can contribute to make that system work better for all. This is a long process. The reinforcement and dramatic expansion of a market will not happen overnight. There are 4 basic phases to the model:

(1) Listen and co-create with community of participants the model aims to serve.

(2) Create visibility of the product, people and information currently invisible to markets.

(3) Improve market connection and provide better channels for trust, transparency and transaction.

(4) Support community driven projects, using the information and tools we create together.

Yellow Seed is currently working to create visibility for farmers, buyers and intermediaries building the base of a robust social network. By surfacing value that exists, we can then understand ways to work better with one another. The Yellow Seed prototype tests that by improving relationships, together we can unlock new and emerging markets.




Screenshot 2015-12-27 08.12.58


To test the theory of Collaborative Trade while we build, Yellow Seed will also be launching a 3-month Change Accelerator Initiative  starting January 2016 in partnership with Impact Hub Berkeley. This initiative will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders in the cacao supply chain, from chocolate makers, to NGO’s working with farmer groups, to social impact funders supporting farmer communities around the world. This working group will tackle the question of how we can work together to co-design clear next steps to move towards improving supply chain trust and transparency, remove logistical barriers to market access, and share resources and tools so that everyone has access to important data that will support their programs. Email nancy@yellow-seed.org to learn more.




Yellow Seed exists to amplify the good work being done and to create and expand markets where we know there is demand and supply.

We are a true facilitator. We help to address gaps and breakdowns by creating connections, and we expand markets that serve farmers, intermediaries and buyers — first with cacao, and in the future with other products like coffee, tea and spices.

Yellow Seed is a nonprofit impact driven enterprise. Our business model requires seed funding to continue to build our platform. Our path to financial self-sufficiency will evolve as we engage more users, retaining a small percentage of transaction fees for operations. Support Yellow Seed.




Yellow Seed envisions a future where global food supply chains respect small agro-ecological farmers, the labor and love they put into their products, and the land where food is grown.

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