When Curt Vander Meer ’89 has a good day at the office, he celebrates with a piece of chocolate. And when he has a bad day, he has a piece of chocolate, too.
As the CEO of Endangered Species Chocolate Co., he’s close to the source. “Every day, I go to work at a chocolate factory. It is fun, but it is also business. It comes with the challenges and rewards of doing business,” Vander Meer said.
Endangered Species Chocolate produces premium chocolate bars. They’re certified Fairtrade International and non-GMO and sold in stores like Kroger, Meijer, and Target. A mission-driven organization, Endangered Species Chocolate donates 10% of net profits to organizations that focus on wildlife conservation.
Vander Meer grew up in Indianapolis. His older brother attended Calvin, and his parents were impressed.
“I took an accounting class in high school, and it was when the Apple IIE computer came out,” he said. Because he had that prior experience, he did well in his first accounting class and just kept going.
“I’m so glad that I specialized in accounting,” said Vander Meer. “Having the CPA credentials has opened up opportunities that I don’t know would have existed if I didn’t have that level of professional designation.”
After graduation, he moved back to Indianapolis, worked in public accounting and eventually a local manufacturer as the director of finance. That experience, along with the accreditation, gave Vander Meer the opportunity to come to Endangered Species Chocolate.
“I didn’t start the company. I’m not the entrepreneur,” he said. “But I’ve been blessed by being part of this organization.”
Endangered Chocolate started in 1993 and was bought out and moved to Indianapolis in 2005. That’s when Vander Meer joined to oversee the finance department.
“I’m proud to work for a company that’s bold enough to put its stewardship pledge on the outside of the product,” Vander Meer says. “It tells consumers that we’re going to donate 10% of net profits. As an accountant, I guard that brand promise with the highest integrity.”
Vander Meer and his wife, Lisa Konynenbelt Vander Meer ’91, have two daughters at Calvin and support Calvin in many ways. “I didn’t appreciate my Calvin education when I was there,” said Vander Meer. “It’s years after that I look back and appreciate the type of education that I got and how they equipped me to think, learn, and apply. That’s what makes me excited about Calvin—it’s still doing that with students.”