Incredible journeys that shape the present & future of food & beverage industry

Written by Hema Reddy / September 22nd, 2016



You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs

Kellee James exemplifies this quote. Looking at her experience, one can connect the dots and trace why she was able to start a food commodities exchange.

Mercaris allows buyers and sellers of raw commodities to meet and trade online. Customers include Whole Foods Market, Michael Foods, Perdue Farms, and others.

They make it possible for “everyone in the supply chain, from farmers to food manufacturers, to track prices, volumes and other statistics for organic corn, or non-GMO soybeans.”

Prior to Mercaris, Kellee spent five years at the Chicago Climate Exchange(CCX), the first electronic trading platform and registry for spot, futures and options contracts on carbon, sulfur, clean energy and other environmental products.

In 2009, she was appointed by President Barack Obama as a White House Fellow where she advised members of the administration on environmental markets.

She has also worked with coffee farmers and commodity banks in Latin America on risk management and income diversification strategies. She was named by both Black Enterprise Magazine and Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine as a ’40 under 40′ rising leader.

Learn the ins and outs of Kellee’s life and company:

  • Her aspirations to be a pro athlete and how she adjusted
  • Why politics and government are two different things
  • What she learned from politics
  • Limitations of the futures market
  • “Every single contract that is traded on our platform results in the physical delivery of the underlying commodity.”
  • Why didn’t an exchange like Mercaris exist 10 years ago?
  • How they assemble their data (very cool!!)
  • What she learned working with coffee farmers in Honduras
  • How the company attracts farmers, grain mills/elevators, and retailers
  • “Identity preservation” in commodities
  • The auction strategy: standard vs. reverse auctions
  • The commodities she wants to add in the future