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University of Missouri

From Bean to Bar

Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate to speak at MU.

Shawn Askinosie

Shawn Askinosie had a successful career as a criminal defense lawyer for nearly 20 years before he started Askinosie Chocolate in Springfield, Mo. In 2013, the Mizzou Alumni Association presented him with a Faculty‐Alumni award. Photo courtesy Askinosie Chocolate.

Oprah calls Shawn Askinosie one of the 15 guys who are saving the world. But on days like today, when a piece of equipment’s water valve is leaky and his telecommunication system is spotty, he feels like any other small‐business owner.

Askinosie, BA ’83, JD ’89, is founder and CEO of Askinosie Chocolate in Springfield, Mo. In addition to making good chocolate, Askinosie also has a reputation for practicing good business.

Askinosie lived in Thailand the summer after his freshman year at college, working for the U.S. Embassy to help Vietnamese refugees resettle in the states. “That’s when I began to learn about needs outside of my own community,” Askinosie says. He also faced social justice issues every day for nearly 20 years as a criminal defense attorney in Springfield.

When Askinosie started making chocolate in 2005, he wanted to work directly with the farmers who were harvesting the cacao beans in Ecuador, Honduras, the Philippines and Tanzania. “I knew we would be sharing profits with farmers before we had profits,” he says.

Today, with only 15 full‐time employees, Askinosie Chocolate buys beans directly from farmers; shares profits with them; and gives back to the their communities through the company’s Product of Change program — every day, Askinosie Chocolate sustainably provides lunch to more than 1,800 students in Tanzania and the Philippines.

Askinosie will speak at 4 p.m. April 16th in Hulston Hall about his experiences at MU, career as a lawyer and how they led to his chocolate‐making business. He credits much of his success to School of Law Assistant Dean Bob Bailey, JD ’79.

Bob Bailey took a risk on me,” Askinosie says, adding that his GPA and LSAT scores were unremarkable. “I couldn’t disappoint Bob because I wanted him to feel like he made the right decision [in admitting me to the program]. He taught me about looking beneath the numbers.”

Another of Askinosie’s mentors is Ed Seguine, president of Seguine Cacao and Chocolate Advisors. When Askinosie was attempting to move his business from his kitchen to a factory, Seguine taught him how to temper larger batches of chocolate.

He helped me through the dark days of dark chocolate,” Askinosie says. “His knowledge of chocolate is endless, from how cacao beans are harvested and where they’re grown and who grows them to making and tasting chocolate — from bean to bar and everything in between.”

Seguine will present “Chocolate Now and Future: Where Demand, Sustainability and Flavor Intersect,” at 3:30 p.m. April 17 in Monsanto Auditorium in the Bond Life Sciences Center as part of the 30th annual Missouri Life Sciences Week. The duo will be available for a Q‐and‐A after the lecture to discuss sustainable business practices and the direct‐trade farmer relationship.