Ariana Lee of Bija Chocolates: 2018 Professional Woman of the Year

Submitted by: Whatcom Women in Business

Whatcom Women in Business is thrilled to announce that Ariana Lee, co-founder of Bija Chocolates has been named its 2018 Professional Woman of the Year.

Ariana Lee, co-founder of Bija Chocolates, is the 2018 Professional Woman of the Year! Photo courtesy: Whatcom Women in Business.

Ariana did her undergraduate work at Montana State University graduating with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Business Administration. Graduating from the Honors Program and Named the Political Science Department’s Most Outstanding Graduate, her plan was to pursue a Law Degree in Human Rights. Her path took a twist and she became interested in the power of products to create positive change.

She was lucky to get an entry level marketing job at Flora, a Natural Products Company in Lynden, WA while pursuing an MBA at the evening professional program at WWU. In her time at Flora, she was fortunate enough to gain experience running campaigns, managing reps and lines of products under the Flora umbrella.

Her experience led her to Barlean’s where she spent a majority of time as the Brand Manager. Two years ago, she joined her husband to continue to develop BIJA, a direct trade organic chocolate company, based in Bellingham WA.

Bija works with three women-owned cooperatives in two countries (Dominican Republic and Peru) providing organic certification and community development. So far BIJA has partnered with over 75 women directly. In Bellingham, BIJA has partnered with organizations like Girls on the Run, Lydia Place and others to support women and girls, conducive to the mission of BIJA.

BIJA chocolate can be found all over Bellingham. They are often found doing art walks, supporting fundraisers and community celebrations for Haggen, The Community Food Co-ops, The Greenhouse, Paper Dream, Elizabeth Station, Whole Foods and others.

This year’s Woman of the Year finalists were:

  • Abby Franklin, Loving Space Preschool
  • Colleen Haggerty, Our TreeHouse
  • Kathy Herndon, VSH Certified Public Accountants
  • Heidi Ludeman, Ludeman Capital Management, Inc.
  • Ariana Lee, Bija Chocolates
  • Chantee Ziemkowski, Alcoa

The six finalists embody the heart of the areas WWIB seeks to honor: Business Acumen, Community Involvement, Leadership and Mentoring.

Whatcom Women in Business is a membership-based, and volunteer-run, nonprofit organization comprised of business owners and managers developing and maintaining proactive role models within the organization and the community at large. Through teaching, learning, leadership and peer support, we strive to exemplify and promote the four areas we honor – leadership, professionalism, mentoring and community.

Guests are welcome at regular membership meetings held on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Bellingham Golf and Country Club. WWIB is dedicated to giving back to the community and does so by financial and volunteer support of a Charity of the Year (proudly supporting Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services in 2018), and through scholarships to women furthering their education.

For more information about the Professional Woman of the Year, membership and scholarship opportunities see

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