The EMKAO team shares a common vision: empowering communities through fair trade, premium cocoa.

Core Team

Ayissi Nyemba, CEO & Founder


Ayissi has been passionate about organic food production for as long as she can remember. Over the years, she gained extensive experience in the international cocoa industry working with farmers in Cameroon, Niger, Rwanda, Kenya, and France. Ayissi completed her bachelors in marketing before moving to Canada to pursue her Chocolate Maker and Professional Chocolatier certifications from Ecole Chocolat in Vancouver. Now, as a leader in producing sustainable cocoa, Ayissi heads up the day-to-day operations and external business development at EMKAO.   

                                       

Jean Nyemba,  Agronomist                                        

Jean is an agricultural consultant with 20 years expertise in agriculture development and value chains. Throughout his career, he has worked with farms in West, Central, and East Africa. At EMKAO, Jean oversees supply chain activities, from the transportation of raw cacao beans to their final processing into chocolate products. Jean's main activities are entered around the establishment of cocoa nurseries for the production and distribution of seedlings; implementation of environmental protection requirements (shading with natural or planted trees) ; acquisition of improved and adapted cocoa varieties with the National Agricultural Research Institute (IRAD) ; planning an overall maintenance program ; harvesting-drying-fermentation and packaging in conformity with international requirements ; contracting importers, to facilitate access to farm inputs ; collaboration with the local cooperatives for the UTZ certification ; contracts with shipping companies for export to Canada, in
collaboration with the National Office of Cocoa and Coffee for the inspections.

Nyemba Jean-Nicolas, UX/UI Specialist

Jean-Nicolas manages EMKAO’s UX interface and design. He is also responsible for other technology projects that EMKAO is pursuing.

 


Board 

          

 

Mike Manion

Mike has held senior leadership roles with farm and food giants including Campbell Soup Company, Conagra, Money’s Mushrooms, Golden Eagle Berries, and Rolland Farms. He has been involved in farming operations in six provinces across the country. Currently, Mike is the CEO of Agrisco Supplies Inc., an agricultural consulting company, through which he lends his expertise to the EMKAO team by helping to scale cocoa production.

Rob Arthurs 

Rob is a certified business coach and entrepreneur with over 35 years of experience in running clothing, commercial cleaning, and real estate companies. In his past role as the Manager of Business Opportunities for the 2010 Winter Olympics, Rob bridged the gap between the between the Vancouver organizing committee and the business community in Canada. He harnesses all of his past experiences to support the EMKAO team in expanding their sales reach around the country.

 

Mary Ellen Hodgins

Mary Ellen Hodgins is President of Hodgins & Company Management Consultants Inc.    Her passion for innovation is at the core of her desire to assist client companies in the food, beverage and natural health products' sector accelerate their innovation strategies. Working one-on-one with companies as well as in group settings, she has conducted workshops and training sessions in Ireland, Malaysia, Bulgaria and Kyrgyzstan as well as throughout Canada.  She continues to team with Grounded Strategies to deliver highly successful training programs such as the Agri-Value Training Program for Ag-West Bio to entrepreneurs across Canada.

In addition to training, Mary Ellen has almost 30 years’ experience in tracking trends and assessing markets, providing market insight to SMEs, NGOs and government departments.  She holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and a Ph.D. in food policy.

David Sanguinetti

David Sanguinetti is a professional engineer with over 20 years’ experience in design, project management and operations. He has a particular focus on helping companies with the development and commercialization of new technologies and has extensive experience both with technical scale-up and with designing the engineering and project management systems to support growing companies. He started his career designing gas processing plants, and has since worked in potable water treatment, biomass-to-energy, industrial water treatment, and metals recovery. In recent years David has focused on supporting new companies to develop and scale their technologies and systems. 


In addition to his hands-on experience, David has held a number of senior management positions and has a good appreciation of the strategic impact of scale-up and systems decisions on a growing company. His home base has always been in Canada, but he has travelled extensively for work and built plants on five continents. He holds bachelors and masters degrees in chemical engineering from McGill University. 



Jana Svedova

Jana is the cofounder and venture lead of Synergy Social Ventures, a Hong Kong based organization created in 2011 to support early stage social ventures Southeast Asia. Synergy invests catalytic capital and works with next generation philanthropists and investors providing impact investment training through hands on experiential learning. Jana has been actively investing in and providing capacity support into ventures operating in Southeast Asia, North America, Latin America and Africa for over 10 years. 

Jana was previously Director of Impact Investments at the University of British Columbia, where she was instrumental in developing a social venture incubator and impact fund. She is a researcher and writer on impact investment topics and frequently advises investors, family offices, government agencies and intergovernmental organizations on strategies for using financial capital for economic and social impact. In particular, Jana is passionate about early stage catalytic capital, innovative financing structures, blended finance and impact measurement.