Hello and good day!
A couple of days back, somebody asked me why we do what we do.
I gave my standard answer, which is an absolutely true answer.
We're in business to support our wonderful cacao farm partners in the district of Huarango in northern Peru.
We've made a long-term commitment to buy the cacao harvest at premium prices, year in and year out, from the more than 500 small family-owned and operated cacao farms with whom we work.
We're going on 16 years in business now and our commitment is as strong as ever. It is also part of our mission to ensure that the native variety of cacao in the zone, pure Nacional, is never pulled up and replaced with industrial hybrids.
For our chocolate customers, we want to make world class luxury chocolate available at everyday prices.
During the first twelve years we were in business, our chocolate was only available through high end pastry chefs and chocolatiers.
We never sold any chocolate directly to the public and those who enjoyed our chocolate paid 6-10 times more than our current prices.
That's how much restaurants and chocolatiers were marking up our wholesale price.
It took us a long time to put the entire puzzle together, but the way to offer a premium product at a fair price, while still paying very high prices to our cacao farm partners, is to cut out as many middlemen as possible.
We don't sell through distributors into retail outlets.
We're not on Amazon.
We buy direct and we sell direct.
Inside our retail stores, our goal is to create community.
We want to be one of the most cherished locally owned establishments in town.
Of course, there is a business reason for this.
If we are popular, people will come in and buy from us and this will give us the money we need to be sustainable.
But there is a soul reason for it too.
We want to help create the type of city that we would want to live in.
A community is responsible for creating itself and we are dedicated to doing our part.
The person to whom I was giving my answer listened respectfully. But she wasn't satisfied.
"That's not what I mean," she said.
"I'm sorry. What is it you want to know exactly?" I asked.
"I want to know why those became your goals in the first place. Why do you care so much?" she asked.
She wanted me to go a layer deeper.
I told her about how we ended up in Peru.
My dad and brother were trying to sell air filter cleaners to the world's biggest gold mine, located outside the city of Cajamarca in northern Peru.
The mine didn't want the air filter cleaners, but they were looking for somebody to sell hydraulic hoses and nuts and bolts.
Caterpillar was price gouging on those parts, and the mine wanted to bring in a competitor.
Back in 2003, we landed a six-million-dollar contract to provide replacement parts to the mine's maintenance department.
That business died down after several years and my brother was in Peru, married and jobless, with a child on the way.
He and my dad were dedicated to launching a family business come what may and my brother needed a new project so that he could earn a living.
Through a mysterious series of coincidences, my dad and brother networked their way out to a remote canyon in the northern Peruvian jungle.
With the help of local cacao farmers, and through genetic testing carried out by the USDA, we came to learn that there was a thought to be extinct variety of cacao growing out in that canyon.
That's how it all started.
"No, you're not understanding," said my interlocutor.
"I'm sorry. I'm doing the best I can," said I.
"It's ok. What I want to know is, why your family?"
"Why us? How do you mean?"
"There are a lot of people in the world, in Peru, here in town. Why do you think you are the ones called on this journey?"
"That is a deep, metaphysical question. It would require a much longer answer than I have time for right this second because more customers are coming in."
"Give me the short version."
"Ok. Short version. We believe in the magic of doing what you love. We realized that we would love this work and so we went for it."
She winked at me. That was the kind of answer she was looking for.
I'm looking at a book of short stories on my desk, written by a fellow named F.X. Toole.
F.X. Toole is his pen name. His real name is Jerry Boyd.
Jerry Boyd was a boxing trainer, cut man, and an excellent writer of fiction.
Million Dollar Baby is one of the stories in this collection.
It is a story about a female boxer that was made into a movie starring Clint Eastwood, Hillary Swank, and Morgan Freeman.
The movie won an Oscar for best picture in 2005.
Here is a blurb from the back cover of the book:
"F.X Toole was a trainer and licensed cut man in the world of professional boxing. He was seventy when his first book was published. He had been writing and battling rejection letters for forty years. He died two years after the book was published, in 2002."
He didn't live to see his story made into a movie.
I am a big-league book worm. Always have been and always will be.
I've found that I have to read about 15 books to find one that is truly great.
This collection of stories is truly great.
The writing is wonderful and real and true.
Even if you don't particularly like boxing, the human interest of these stories is undeniably fascinating.
In the intro to the book, the author writes one of the most profound things I've ever read.
He poses the question of why a man would dedicate his life to writing stories he couldn't sell and working in a profession, being a boxing cut man, that barely paid.
Despite living broke, and having his art jilted for decades, he says he always loved his life, every minute of it.
Because doing what he loved was magic.
It was magic being in the corner when a fight was on the line, and it was magic seeing his characters come alive on paper.
He realized that not many people get to feel the magic of doing just what their heart is calling them to do.
But he wasn't one of them.
He lived in magic, and magic was better than money.
This sums it up perfectly.
Our company has a responsibility to make money.
Our employees, families, and cacao farm partners depend on us to pay the bills.
But we've also been magic chasers, and that has brought us great satisfaction.
Will you create some magic today?
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
Click here for wonderful chocolate made with pure Nacional cacao.
Follow us on Instagram - @fortunatonochocolate
To learn more about our word-of-mouth program, click here.