John Anderson’s Sweet and Smoky Successes
John Anderson MBA 03 has a BA from Claremont McKenna College, the equivalent of an MA from Christie’s in London—and an MBA from UC Davis. But, he says, “Perhaps my proudest accomplishment is my CBJ (Certified Barbecue Judge) from the Kansas City Barbecue Society!”
What are you passionate about in your work and why?
I enjoy the constant creativity and invention that drive our business. When I was in the wine business the development of a product was lengthy (sometimes three to five years) and extremely expensive. With chocolate, it is not unusual to move from idea to the shelf in a day, and if it doesn’t work, we have likely invested less than $25 in materials.
We are also a family company, so I am able to work with my children and witness their growth every day.
Where is your career headed? What do you hope to achieve professionally?
I can’t say honestly. Up to four months ago I would have told you chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate, but now we have added a new company to the mix: Woodhouse Barbecue. What, BBQ? I know it’s a strange combination, but we love them both. On the one hand you have Belgian-style chocolate and its extreme precision, and on the other fire, smoke and slabs of meat. Ask me again in five years and we will likely have added something else. Change keeps you interested.
How has your UC Davis MBA experience helped shape your success?
Whether you have 10 employees or hundreds, the fundamentals are the same. My Davis MBA has given me the skill set to run a successful business.
How are you a game changer—or, how are you making a positive impact in the world?
Well, I can’t say I have changed the world with my accomplishments, but when my wife and I started Woodhouse Chocolate there were only a handful of ultra-high-end chocolate producers in the United States. Since then the category has expanded rapidly.
What is the most significant thing that’s happened to you since graduating?
Founding Woodhouse Chocolate will probably fit the bill. My wife and I have created a well-respected business with a national reputation from nothing. Every decision and all the risk was on us, not someone else.
Your favorite GSM memory?
I think the time spent on our final project was the most satisfying. Working with a diverse set of people to solve an interesting project was very rewarding.
Anything else you’d like your fellow alums to read about you?
A great BBQ meal followed by salt caramels and English toffee is a wonderful thing!
How do you support and participate in the GSM now?
I am very proud of my MBA and have tried to steer a number of other people toward the program.