Hello and good day!
A wonderful customer who came into our shop yesterday told me that her husband doesn't believe our story. He thinks we cooked it up for marketing purposes.However, he does love our products and his wife was there buying their favorites to take home.
We both agreed that ultimately a story doesn't mean a thing if the products suck. A good story might get you to try something once. But if the experience or the product doesn't live up to the story, nobody will come back a second or third or fourth time.
In our case, if anything, I don't do justice to the true story.
The book I am writing will hopefully make it clear just how much my brother Brian in particular sacrificed to make our company what it is today. I've read many comments online from people who say that a product should speak for itself.
If the product is great, it doesn't need a story. I don't totally disagree with that.
In fact, that was the exact scenario we found ourselves in for a very long time. Our chocolate was completely anonymous for 11 years.You may have even had it sometime between 2009 and 2020 in a nice restaurant without realizing it. You didn't need the story to enjoy it.
A skilled pastry chef made a dessert with it. The dessert had excellent ingredients and an excellent recipe. It was prepared with skill and care.
The ambiance was pleasant. The service was great. Who needs a story in that scenario?
In truth, you don't need a story to execute well. It wouldn't be very hard for us at this point to get our chocolate into Costco and major grocery stores. In that case, we'd be well distributed and well distributed products don't usually have stories either.
Nobody expects a story from a Mars bar or M&Ms. They are ubiquitous. They are where you are. They taste good enough. They are cheap. The products are passable I suppose, and they are physically located in convenient places, which is good. If you want or need a hit of sugar blended with a slight taste of cacao, they get the job done. No story needed.
There are several non-story avenues available to us. But here's the thing.
Here is why I write an email every day and why it is so important for me personally and for our company to keep telling our story. Making high quality products is really hard.
A lot of lives are involved. A lot of years and effort and investment go into it. With chocolate specifically, there are a lot of people behind the scenes who nobody knows about, namely cacao farmers, who bust their butt day in and day out, living hard scrabble lives.
Given all that goes into well crafted products, they are relatively easy to buy and consume. And I believe that it is a bad thing for humans to consume too easily. It makes us decadent and unappreciative.
We take for granted that things magically appear and that hard work isn't needed. It is a trend in our society that I don't think is healthy. I suffered from this lack of appreciation for a long time too.
It is easy to take things for granted when you are born into a prosperous civilization. But seeing what it takes to make great chocolate year after year changed my view of food and manufacturing.
So much of it is miraculous. Especially the things that are made with great care. I think that companies who do things the right way should tell their stories because it is good for the heart, soul, and outlook of society at large.
People should know how much work went into their favorite products because it increases gratitude. And that gratitude in turn just may remind somebody that they should put their heart and soul into their work. This works its way out in concentric circles and can affect a lot of people.
This is the idea of a purpose based business.We're not doing this just to make a buck. We're trying to use our products to make the world a better place.
Stories can be abused though.
Maybe 7 years ago, we produced a 100% cacao mini square. It was a phenomenal product but it did not sell well at all. We tried to distribute it into grocery stores. A couple of stores gave us a chance, but when nobody purchased, they cut us off. The company who was doing the molding and packaging for us had a really cool manufacturing facility.
They had all kinds of great machines. The owner was a great guy. It was fun to walk around in there and see a high volume production facility. One time we went to the plant and they were doing production for a very well known premium brand.
The brand had this whole back story which I later found out was totally fabricated by a big food conglomerate. The packaging was clean and sleek. The name of the company was just a person's first name. Very personable. The product was sold in high end expensive stores.
On the back of the package was the "person's" story. I put person in quotes because the person didn't exist. In the facility, I saw huge barrels of low grade ingredients slopped into machines by a fork lift.
I'm sure the workers who worked in the factory were good people, but they didn't care one wit about this product. They were just following instructions. They probably didn't even realize what they were making.
The whole thing was a money grabbing scheme. Later the brand was sold to a private equity firm for something like $200 million. In this case, the company was pure story and very little substance. I saw it with my own eyes.
But that ain't us. Beyond trying to make the world a better place through our story, I have one other motivation for trumpeting what we do so loudly. The people involved, my dad, my brother, and the cacao farmers, deserve to get a tip of the cap.
I just listened to an interview with a professional baseball player who had a great career and is widely loved and celebrated for his accomplishments. Millions of people know him, look up to him, and admire him. He played for 13 years in the big leagues.
My brother Brian has been leading our project for going on 20 years now all told and we are just getting started. Brian is a straight operations guy who keeps his head down and makes things happen in a high quality meticulous way.
Nobody would ever know about him because he would never in a million years tell his own story. And I think he and my dad deserve for at least a few people to know about them. Their effort and accomplishment warrant it.
The last thing I will mention is that I know for certain that everybody walking in the world has some great stories in them. Stories of depth and perseverance and triumph.
This is an idea that I am very fascinated by. You see somebody at the grocery store and walk right by them without giving them a second thought. But dang near everybody has some tremendous story they could tell you about themselves.
Love stories. Stories of loss and overcoming. Stories of survival. Stories of adventure and travel.
If we knew their stories, our interactions would have more meaning. This is why long running cultural stories are so powerful in binding people together. It is why the elders of tribes always pass down history to younger generations.
Stories make everything deeper and more significant. Stories are important.
Anyhow, I am running out of steam on this subject a bit now.
But I will leave you with this. Tell somebody your stories!
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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