Maker Stories: Jason Miller of Jaybird Chocolate

Once you meet Jason, you know you’ve met a visionary. Someone who is creative, looks forward, and can quickly reimagine something different. Today, we wanted to sit down with Jason and discover his story behind making as he ventures into chocolate.

Keep reading for the full interview after the jump!

How did it all start? What started your love for creating? 
I’ve always enjoyed the process of creativity, whether through music, photography, coffee, etc. But what I enjoy the most about the adventure of creativity is finding great friendships along the way. It’s really about the people for me. That is what remains. Van Gogh has a quote “There’s nothing more genuinely artistic than to love people.” I believe that. And when you find those with a similar passion, it’s just really fun to pursue great ideas together. The term “creative” is very broad, and I believe everyone no matter what their “job” is, is capable of creativity. I love pursuing new ideas, chasing excellence and learning a craft. I have a deep appreciation for taking the time to do something with intentionality and perseverance. You don’t become great at something overnight, it takes work and diligence. I think that first began for me in pursuit of music as a young kid. At 12 years old I picked up a guitar, determined to become a great player. I’ve repurposed that passion in different ways over the years, but at the heart of it all there’s a passion for people, for exploration, and innovation.
What inspires your creative process? How do you cultivate inspiration?
I think there’s a lot of trial and error, a lot of learning, a lot of wins and losses. The fear of failure really has to go out the window. There’s just not enough time to second guess all the time. Just go for it. If it sucks, you’ll know. There’s also a great deal of defining what success looks like for ME. I’m not concerned with what success looks like to the person next to me, I need to know what my core values are and those define my actions. In this season of my life, it’s my family. Chocolate making provides a way for me to be present at home while my daughter is young, and still have the joy of being creative and innovative. It’s a beautiful craft that I can share with my friends and family. I cultivate inspiration simply by being with my daughter, by enjoying a great album on vinyl, going to a great concert, enjoying a great whiskey… There’s no magical way of digging up creative energy for me — for me, if I listen and be present, it’s really all around me. It’s not complicated, I just find what makes me come alive and pursue it. I try not to overthink it and get lost in the trap of “what ifs”… I like thinking in terms of “why not?”.

You’ve spent a lot of time studying the cocoa bean, how does this affect your process?
I have spent time studying chocolate in general — learning the origins, about the plant itself, how to roast cocoa beans properly and then how to process those into bars. There’s a lot of steps along the way. I think my history in coffee and coffee roasting has enabled me to step into this trade a bit easier – although the two are vastly different, there are some similarities.
What do you hope to bring to the chocolate market? 
I would love to help educate people on what makes great chocolate, and how to best enjoy it. A lot of chocolate makers are doing a great job already, and I’d like to join that community in pressing forward in this industry. It’s an exciting time to be in chocolate. 
How do you approach being a creative in Redding. What is your personal role in bringing transformation to the culture?
I’m all about helping other entrepreneurs. Unfortunately there is a level of getting territorial in a small town, and I just don’t believe in that. I like to collaborate, share ideas and be a real community. It only makes us all better. I remember when I moved here there were not any craft coffee shops downtown, and now there are several. And they are doing well. There was room for everyone. I believe Redding wants to support local if we step it up and bring a quality product for them to enjoy. My role? I think I bring a level of excellence and beauty to be shared and to inspire. I have an immense passion for pursuing ideas and seeing them through. Too many people give up too soon. I hope I can inspire others to chase ideas and take risks. I look forward to where our city will be in 5-10 years from now. There is so much potential.

Jaybird Chocolate highlights single origin cocoa beans and can be purchased locally at Sketch & Press in Downtown Redding. Want to win some? Make sure to enter our Instagram giveaway here.*

*Giveaway closes at 11:59PST December 6th, 2018. Available to U.S residents. No purchase required. All rules listed on the Instagram post. 

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  • I am a new addict to your Cocoa husk tea! It smells like real hot chocolate, has rich flavors for a tea and I can almost pretend I am having the real thing without the sugar and fat! Oh and as an added plus it is caffeine free! Perfect for curbing those late night winter cravings for something chocolate and warm! So exquitate it could be sold somewhere like Whole Foods or Sprouts! I am off to find your store to get some more. (I just accidently discovered you at the Bethel Bazaar and now I am addicted!)

    • Hi Joy!
      I’m so glad you loved Jason’s Maker Story. His products are amazing. If you’re looking to source more of the Cocoa Husk Tea or chocolate bars, you can purchase them locally at Sketch and Press on California Street, in downtown Redding. Merry Christmas!