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Sterling Jones

Founder + CEO JOJO’s Chocolate City Draper

JoJo was the queen of chocolate. Her son, Sterling Jones, continues her legacy through dark chocolate goodness. When JoJo was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, she had no intention of starting a company. “She was battling cancer and trying to cut out sugar, so she created a delicious dark chocolate treat for herself,” Sterling says. JoJo’s love for trail mix, pistachios and cranberries came together to make the perfect chocolate bark. From there, Sterling hopped in and started collaborating with her on other recipes. The first sale was made at a CrossFit competition in Nov. 2013, and this article doubles as a 10-year celebration to that magical moment. In May 2014, JOJO’s Chocolate became official. In 2015 when Sterling graduated, his dad asked, “You’re getting a job … right?” Sterling’s response was a hesitant, “Uh … no.” What is now a $25 million chocolate company (and homage to the sweet mother with a sweet tooth) began with Sterling traveling to San Francisco to sell to yoga studios while sleeping in his car. JoJo passed away in 2019, but her legacy is held in the hearts of all who knew her, and in the bags of treats purchased by customers all across the country. (Happy Valley loves this stuff — JOJO’s top two selling Costcos are Orem and American Fork!) Someday, Sterling plans to build from the chocolate up and turn the company into JOJO’s Kitchen. JoJo, this one’s for you.

Things really took off for us in 2018 when we got into Costco, Sprouts and Whole Foods. That’s where the explosion of growth has come from. We import chocolate from Germany, and my partner there recently asked me, “What do you think for volume next year?” I said, “Probably a million pounds.” That is wild. My mom literally started with two ounces of chocolate.

My wife and I moved away for two months to live in Seattle, and while I was living there I emailed the Sprouts Farmers Market buyer that we would love to do something with them. He was like, “Yeah, come tomorrow!” I booked a flight right then, and I went and presented our two flavors. He tried it and he’s like, “Yeah that’s really good.” He brings in the other buyer who said, “Mmm, that’s good,” and then that second buyer left. The first buyer said, “That is glowing praise from that guy … Can we put you in all stores?” We went from zero to 350 Sprouts. 

While we were waiting for the 350-store order with Sprouts, I got us into the four local Whole Foods. I dropped off the bars in the back and had them check the order in, and then I went in the front door to buy it. As I went to checkout, I realized the barcode was tiny. The lady says, “Why won’t this scan?” *turns the bar around* “Oh my gosh, look at this barcode!” I was like, “Yeah, who would do that? I can’t believe that!” Meanwhile, I’m tripping. We were about to send out thousands of bars to Sprouts that wouldn’t scan at the register. I rushed and made new packaging before we shipped to Sprouts. It was wild.

I knew nothing about selling a product to retail, or refrigerated trucks, or creating Facebook ads — all those skill sets are things I had to Google and YouTube along the way. When I went to raise the first round of money, they said, “What’s your background? What did you do before this?” I was like “… high school basketball?” You have to have an insane amount of tenacity to never give up. I think I did have that, and now it’s gotten stronger. 

I get chills when people email or call us and say, “Your mom’s story inspired me.” That is the greatest part of this. I watched my mom battle cancer with love, optimism and faith. I thought, if more people knew my mom, they would feel more love and know how to make good things out of bad things. To see that happening is the greatest thing about JOJO’s. She is the heart and soul behind the product.

Dad (three kids with one on the way), husband, church leader, brother, high school 3-point shooting champ.

How do I de-stress? *Silence* I should do that. *Laughs* 
It’s simple — literally breathing. I’ve also done some cold plunges and made a few visits to counselors. 

Gotta have a seat warmer, right? 

Waking up early. Starting the day with meditation and a workout. Goal setting and planning.

“Mindset” by Carol Dweck. 

Try to not take yourself too seriously. Realize that everything is about learning. You never get today back, so enjoy the journey.