Chocolate expert and Harvard grad Valerie Beck is a chocolate industry entrepreneur, pioneer, and activist. Creator of the original chocolate tours, which she expanded to cities across the US with a team of 50, she is also a chocolate consultant, broker, and speaker, as well as a cheerful and engaging media personality.
She founded Chocolate Uplift to provide chocolate services to the trade, to the public, and to cacao growing nations.
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Here’s to “uplift through chocolate!”
Founder and CEO
Short bio – longer version follows
Chocolate expert Valerie Beck is a pioneering entrepreneur in chocolate and hospitality. Valerie created the original Chicago Chocolate Tours, which she expanded to 4 cities across the US, grew to 50 employees, and ran for 10 years, educating and entertaining tens of thousands of people about the history, health benefits, production, and selection of first-class chocolate. Valerie’s business Chocolate Uplift currently brokers and distributes chocolate made by craft artisan chocolate makers, and provides consulting services to cacao growers and chocolate makers, always with a focus on ethical chocolate and sustainability. In fact, her 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate are: slavery-free, soy-free and industrial additive-free, sustainable, small-batch, and scrumptious!
A Chicago native, Valerie graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. After practicing law in Europe and the US, she founded the chocolate tours and Chocolate Uplift, and is also a popular speaker, writer, chocolate show judge, and media personality.
She started the Chocolate Freedom Project to end child slave labor on the cacao farms that produce cocoa beans for big chocolate brands, and supports formerly trafficked kids at a West African rescue center. She has also taught as an adjunct professor at Kendall College and UCLA Extension, spreading chocolate knowledge to new generations, and continues to work with students through her virtual tutoring business Valerie’s Infinity Tutoring.
Valerie’s mission is Uplift Through Chocolate, because chocolate can improve our mood and the world!
Valerie Beck, founder of Chocolate Uplift and of the original Chicago Chocolate Tours nationwide, also known as Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours, is a cheerful chocolate expert on TV and radio and in print, and has been profiled in multiple media outlets such as NBC, ABC, WGN TV, WGN Radio, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, and Crain’s Chicago Business.
She is an upbeat and engaging speaker and blogger on all things chocolate. She speaks frequently on topics such as the history and health benefits of chocolate, such as in her presentation “What’s in Your Chocolate: Making Conscious Chocolate Choices,” where she teaches how to interpret labels to discern what’s really in your chocolate bar, and discusses her 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate, which are: slavery-free, soy-free and industrial additive-free, sustainable, small-batch, and scrumptious! She also speaks on business and motivational topics, with a chocolate twist, such as in her presentation on “The ABCs of Sweet Success: Attitude, Belief, Commitment.”
Her chocolate consulting work ranges from helping brands create and launch new chocolate bars, to helping cacao growing nations promote their products.
Valerie is also a popular judge at chocolate competitions such as the annual World of Chocolate event in Chicago, and at business plan and innovation competitions.
Valerie is a pioneer in the business of chocolate tourism and other chocolate services to the public, to the trade, and to cocoa growing nations. Chocolate Uplift is the umbrella for all of these offerings. Chocolate Uplift provides entertaining and educational services to the public including trips to chocolate festivals around the world, and chocolate wellness seminars. Chocolate Uplift also provides valuable services to the chocolate industry, such as consulting to chocolate brands particularly in the small-batch and fine chocolate categories, importing fair trade cocoa beans and chocolate baking discs directly from ethical sources, and arranging origin trips to cocoa farms for bean-to-bar chocolate makers and others. In addition, Valerie consults for cocoa growing nations such as Ecuador, to promote their ethical cacao and chocolate.
A Chicago native, Valerie created the first chocolate tours when she founded Chicago Chocolate Tours in 2005, to introduce chocolate lovers to small-batch chocolate shops and bakeries. With her team of “Choc Stars” she grew the business to become a well-known and award-winning tour company serving tens of thousands of chocolate lovers, with 50 employees, which opened in Philadelphia and Boston in 2009, and developed footprints in additional cities. In 2016, Valerie relaunched the business as Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours, with renewed focus on sustainable cacao and artisan chocolate.
Valerie invented the concept of the chocolate tour years earlier, when she was a 19-year-old Harvard College senior studying abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris. She had been focused on chocolate since announcing at age 4 that she would drink milk only if it were chocolate. In Paris she fell in love with truly fine chocolate, and started taking her friends on informal excursions she developed to her favorite chocolate and pastry locations there and in Belgium.
Later, after graduating from Harvard Law School, Valerie practiced law in Chicago and Europe, and took the opportunity during her years in Europe to deepen her knowledge of chocolate and pastry.
Her awards include Influential Woman in Business from the Daily Herald Business Ledger, and Top 100 Woman Owned Businesses from the Philadelphia Business Journal. She has mentored many other entrepreneurs through Women’s Innovation Network – WIN, the Chicago City Treasurer’s small business program, and through private consulting.
Her philanthropy of choice for her business is CARE, which helps women and families around the world exit poverty through entrepreneurship. Valerie is also exploring and creating projects such as her Chocolate Freedom Walk to help children forced into slave labor on the West African cacao farms that produce the bulk of the world’s chocolate, while she promotes fair trade and socially responsible chocolate. She started the Chocolate Freedom Project to end child slave labor on the cacao farms that produce cocoa beans for big chocolate brands, and supports formerly trafficked kids at a West African rescue center. She has also taught as an adjunct professor at Kendall College and UCLA Extension, spreading chocolate knowledge to new generations. Valerie continues to work with students through her virtual tutoring business Valerie’s Infinity Tutoring.
Valerie’s mission is Uplift Through Chocolate, because chocolate can change everything from our mood, to the world!
Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift
Craft Chocolate Activism, Brokering, Consulting, Distribution