Hello and good day!
Check out the photo. This is our first cacao processing facility. Take a look at the wooden box over to the right. That is one of our first fermentation boxes.
The little house in the background is a single room where my brother Brian and my brother-in-law Miguel shared a bunk bed. There was just enough space to get a small desk in that room too.
But there was no space for a kitchen and many nights these two men cooked their dinner over a bonfire. They could only do that when it wasn't raining torrentially, which is most of the time during harvest season.
When it was raining, they cooked dinner under the awning in the background on a camping stove. The rest of the space was an empty lot previously used for parking off duty taxis.
The city of Jaen is one of the hottest places in all of Peru, even at night, and even when it is raining.When you walk around the city, day or night, you always see men with their shirts off or with the front of their shirt pulled up over their head, exposing their abs. Women are always scantily clad.
Brian and Miguel lived in this meagre set up for a year and a half before getting good enough at processing cacao for us to justify building a permanent processing facility out closer to where cacao grows. During the day, Brian and Miguel rode motorcycles out to cacao farms.
Two years after this picture was taken, we were employing 40 full time employees.
Five years after this, we were selling chocolate and cacao in more than 30 countries.
But it all started with two guys sitting in an empty parking lot with their shirts off cooking dinner over a bonfire.
Every day they rode motorcycles out to cacao farms, bought cacao, and came back to the abandoned parking lot to practice fermenting and drying cacao. After one year of practicing, they took cacao to a flavor analysis lab and got dismal scores.
We hired a consultant to come down and advise us.About seven months after that, Brian and Miguel took more cacao back to the lab and got a great score.
Only then were we ready to try to scale up the business and go out into the market.
I was working as an accountant during most of that time to make ends meet and helping out with the chocolate business on nights and weekends. We didn't really even have a product to sell.
We weren't good at buying and processing cacao and we didn't have anywhere near sufficient quantities to build a business around. And yet, my dad and I went to industry meetings and talked up our project and the cacao we were buying.
You know something? I was just about the world's crappiest salesman back in the day.
I remember going to industry association meetings, talking to 15 people, and being ignored by all 15. But after many years of practicing and sticking with it, I ended up becoming a guy who sold millions of dollars' worth of chocolate every single year.
This is how it goes with everything, and I think it is the biggest hurdle to getting started on something new.
What got me thinking about this is we are getting ready to start designing packaging for some new products. And these are different types of products, products we have no experience with manufacturing or packaging.
We also have soft serve machines coming because we plan to manufacture and sell soft serve in our shops during the summer. We have no idea what we are doing, and it all seems like it might just be a little bit out of our reach.
But we have decided strategically that this is what we must do for the good of the business, so we have no choice but to move forward. That being the case, we'll just figure it all out as we go along and get better and better as time goes on.
This is a good mantra for doing things you've never done before.
One day at a time.
Get better every day.
Be diligent and chip away at it.
In a couple of years, it will all feel like no big deal, and we'll know what we're doing. If I start to feel overwhelmed, I'll look at the photo of my brother above and remember how this whole thing got started in the first place.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!