Fifteen years feels like a long time. In other ways 2007 was yesterday. I’ve taken 45 origin trips and tasted a lot of chocolate since then. I left law searching for a new horizon. Little did I know what that horizon would look and feel like. Opening a craft chocolate factory was an answer to a simple prayer that went like this: Dear God, please give me something else to do. And he did. And a whole lot more that I could have never imagined. Isn’t this the way it goes?
Factory exterior on Commercial Street in Springfield, Missouri when Shawn purchased the building in 2003
I didn’t imagine that I’d have the chance to work alongside my daughter Lawren for most of those 15 years. She’s now a part owner, our Chief Marketing Officer, and helps me run the company. And she co-authored the book “Meaningful Work” with me. I didn’t expect that so many fine people would spend years of their professional lives with us making and selling our award-winning chocolate. Thank you to John, Kyle, Kat, Kevin, Brad, Kaylyn, Allison, Gilda, Flora, and Carmen. I couldn’t have dreamed that Missy would lead our Chocolate University program into the lives of so many children.
When I prayed that prayer I had no idea that people would actually buy our bean to bar chocolate over and over, year after year. Of course, I hoped we’d have “customers” but getting to know many of them has been an added joy. In the early years when I handled shipping, I would write notes that our customers asked to accompany gifts they were sending to family and friends. It’s heartwarming to think people like our chocolate bars, cocoa nibs, and baking ingredients enough to give and share them with those they love and care about. But on a deeper level, I know that many of our customers share our passion for direct trade with farmers, profit sharing, and fairness. It’s this connection that I could not have dreamed up.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve also had our share of struggles over these 15 years. In those times I rely upon all of the treasures stored up in my heart and know things will be all right.
Shawn Askinosie with Field Representative, Diego Pinos, and lead farmer partner, Vitaliano Sarabia, in Del Tambo, Ecuador, 2012
Shawn and Don Vitaliano at origin in 2019
We say “it’s not about the chocolate, it’s about the chocolate.” The mutuality and kinship Lawren and I have shared with each other, our co-workers, our customers, our farmer-partners, and Chocolate University students embodies this notion.