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From cacao to chocolate – in uncertain times

Earlier this year I achieved one of my long term social enterprise goals when I opened South Pacific Cacao, my own boutique chocolate factory in Haberfield, Sydney with my business partner the amazing Chocolate Artisan Jessica Pedemont.

This was the culmination of a five year cacao journey, which included supporting farming communities in the Solomon Islands to produce award-winning cacao beans and establishing premium supply chains into Australia, New Zealand and the competitive European craft chocolate market.

A few years ago Jessica and I decided that we would team up to create a new social enterprise pathway that linked my work in the South Pacific with the fine artisan markets in Sydney that was front and centre for Jessica. Cacao and chocolate would be the start but the sky was the limit!

South Pacific Cacao has been a while in the crafting, but we softly opened in the beautiful foodie destination of Ramsay St, Haberfield early this year, which is Jessica’s local neighbourhood. We’ve had some lovely online shoutouts in the first few months already, including Not Quite Nigella and Timeout with a few other exciting opportunities in the pipeline.

You may be aware that after working for nearly 20 years in the IT industry, I took a break a few years ago to work fulltime on my cacao social enterprise in the Solomon Islands, supporting my local farming communities on my home island of Makira to access premium markets and earn a better and fairer income.  It was very exciting at the time, however it very nearly sent my wife and I bankrupt and came with significant personal stress for the both of us. On a positive note it sufficiently accelerated my work in the Solomons so that two years ago I returned to earning a regular income in the Technology scene in Brisbane and back to spending my nights on cacao.

While time poor, this provided enough financial security again to progress another opportunity – this time with Jessica on our boutique chocolate factory!

Now the bad news which should be no surprise, we have chosen the worst time in the last 100 years to open a food business! We had planned to open before Christmas 2019, however this got delayed to January 2020 and by mid March we had to close our physical retail presence due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We also don’t qualify for any of the government assistance as we haven’t been trading for long enough.

Our short term goal at this point is simply to generate enough sales through our online channel and with our existing wholesale customers to pay our expenses (mainly rent!) so that we can keep afloat for the next 3-6 months during this uncertainty. Although Jessica runs the factory day to day, we aren’t expecting to pay any wages for some time, which is very challenging for her and her family.

Like many other local businesses, we really need your support to help us get through this time!  I know that many of my IT colleagues across many industries are hurting right now, so only if possible in your circumstances, could I please ask for your support with any of the following:

1) Visit our website and place an order for some amazing craft chocolate.

2) Share our story and website with friends and colleagues and encourage them to make an online purchase.

3) Like our social media pages on Facebook and Instagram and subscribe to our website blog.

5) Support the other local chocolate makers in Australia who make chocolate themselves from cacao beans, many of whom are struggling at the moment. I personally know many of these wonderful people. The full list of them here. You will pay three or four times the price of a chocolate bar from Coles or Woolworths, but this is the difference between a beautifully crafted wine and a very cheap, poor quality cask wine. Your standard chocolate bar from the supermarket will have a dozen ingredients (with high percentage of cheap sugar). A high quality craft chocolate bar only needs 4 or 5 ingredients at most, with the unique flavour in a dark chocolate coming from the single origin / single estate / smallholder farm cacao beans. Plus these chocolate makers can pay farmers up to double what they earn from supplying the Nestle/Cadbury supply chains. They certainly do if sourcing through Makira Gold.

South Pacific Cacao is co-located at 74 Ramsay St, Haberfield with Jessica’s Chocolate Artisan brand. The shop is currently closed for retail due to current coronavirus regulations however we are taking online orders on our website

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You can still see my Solomon Islands cacao social enterprise, Makira Gold at (Photo above at one of the cacao farms we support in Makira – Lenard Nahurua)

(This article also published on LinkedIn.