#BEYOUROWN MEETS FRANZISKA ROSARIO
Lovechock wants to open people’s hearts by making the most delicious chocolate whilst seeking to bring people into contact with the pure essence of cacao. By choosing the very best raw & cold pressed cacao, the flavonoids and ‘love chemicals’ remain intact. Not only do Lovechock select 100% organic ingredients and choose to combine whole pieces of (super)fruits and nuts in our chocolate, but the cacao that Lovechock uses is produced in an honest way that is in compliance to the fair wage for the farmers. We chat to Franziska Rosario- the directing brainchild behind Lovechock, to uncover why she feels it is important for everybody to understand that conscious living is not just for a chosen few, but for all of us.
Hey Franziska how is it all going so far?
Lovechock the company is going very well, thank you. We started in the Netherlands and were able to share our ideas about RAW chocolate with conscious consumers for the past 9 years in now more than 20 markets. Of course, we’re like any other small company growing, with our challenges, but that’s part of being a pioneering and innovative company.
What were the first steps you took to launching Lovechock?
My business partners at the time wanted to be the first to launch a RAW Chocolate product in mainland Europe, understanding that raw cacao beans have wonderful properties such as vitamins, minerals, flavonoids (the largest group of antioxidants) and ‘Mood enhancers‘, or as we call them ‘ Lovechemicals‘; that’s where we get our name from. Most people see chocolate as unhealthy. Cacao is one of the most complex raw materials or you could even say the mother of all superfoods, and in its’ natural form is full of goodies. We wanted to make a low processed product that was as close to nature as possible. Beyond that, we didn’t want to burden nature, that’s why all our products are organic.
Moreover, we wanted to ensure the farmers get a fair price; we don’t buy our beans on the commodity exchanges of this world but work directly with cooperatives. Above everything else for us going back to the original and pure taste of cacao is important, to show consumers how great, real chocolate can taste. Ultimately we want to leave this world a little bit better than we found it and spread a Little Love and happiness.
How has the journey been so far whilst building Lovechock, any anecdotes to share?
Oh, that’s a tough one, there are so many anecdotes to share. Being pioneering in your own category is quite a roller coaster. For example 8 years ago, nobody knew what RAW chocolate was, we literally had to build the category and we’re still building. What we also didn’t understand is that the organic and conventional retail world tick a little bit differently. Getting to know how these channels work was very important for us. Now I think understanding the distribution of where to sell our product has been the key to our success.
I would also say don’t try to do everything yourself. Find partners that have also traveled the road you’re traveling. Personally, this is a huge mirror for me and is certainly a growth journey, a company is not a thing, it revolves around people. Having people believing in the company mission is key. Also, even if you have a purpose to create a social company it’s a must to master core business techniques.
You focus on selling the best organic, raw cacao from Ecuador, did you have to research heavily into this before offering this in your product?
Actually, the chocolate was created after being inspired to eat raw food. RAW cacao at the time was solely available from Ecuador. Why? It has the best taste profile with very fine-flavors, this is the starting point of a great RAW chocolate as we don’t roast our beans. Roasting cacao beans enhance the flavours of a bean. There is a saying ‘you can make a great tasting bean out of a poor quality bean by roasting it’. Again by not roasting, we need to start with the best quality bean and that’s from Ecuador.
Moreover, we did quite some research into the type of sugars to use. The first years we used Agave, but ultimately changed to Coconut blossom sugar that has a Lower GI (Glycemic Index) as it’s totally unrefined. I love this product as it also supports small farmers in Indonesia. Perhaps a little more research into finding more suppliers of our exotic and then unknown ingredients, such as Goji’s, Maca and Lucuma would have reduced a few headaches. They were very difficult to source in the beginning. Now they’re everywhere. But then again: It’s always a fun challenge to be a front runner.
The beans are cold ground instead of being roasted, is this a USP to Lovechock?
Most definitely. Not roasting our beans, but also not over waltzing and conching (mixing the chocolate for up to 72 hours) are the key differences in our chocolate making process. That’s why Lovechock has a different taste profile than even our closest competitors as it is more coarse and ‘real’ than other chocolates on the market. We also try to add as little of the coconut blossom sugar as possible to be less sweet. Lovechock’s taste profile is rather unique in that you can “bite and chew” because of the chunks of whole fruit and nuts in the recipes. We think of them as a little explosion of superfoods. It’s that little reward for people who are on a journey to improving their quality of life and those around them.
You also offer eco-friendly packaging, which shows that as a brand you are environmentally aware, has this helped boost sales?
Unpacking a Lovechock is always an exciting and emotional treat. Moving from the initial colourful aluminum foil to a transparent cellulose, made of sustainable wood-pulp, wasn’t the obvious choice from a visual point of view. However, taking out the colourful aluminum foil was a bit of no-brainer when looking at our mission statement. That’s why we were the 2nd in 2011 to move to compostable foil and it’s great to see now that larger brands are following in our footsteps to be plastic free. The great thing is that our fans and consumers love the fact that we care about the planet. They see Lovechock as a regular little gift to themselves on their way to conscious living. And, by the way, one more reason for them to buy Lovechock are the ‘positive affirmations’, cute notes inside, which always bring a smile to their faces.
Can you tell us, how you funded your company? Was it bootstrapped/investment backed?
In the beginning, we funded Lovechock ourselves and with a small micro-credit of 10K euros from Microcredit. We were too small for the banks. This helped finance the initial investment in a small chocolate machine. Since 2011 we have had credits from various banks and a loan for more machines. In 2015 we invested in our own factory. We found out that not too many chocolate companies want to make RAW chocolate, so we decided to build the techniques ourselves. Not the obvious choice, and one that has cost us a lot of difficulties and learning capital.
On a positive note, we have room to explore new routes, like creating 2 new brands that appeal to different consumers whilst still in line with our mission to “radiate the pleasure of conscious living”. Since 2016, together with 2 investors, I purchased Lovechock the company from my business partners.
Have you had any mentors through out your business journey? If so can you tell us if it has helped in any way?
Absolutely and without him, I wouldn’t have been able to take the company further. A company again is a team, and I have had key people advising me internally and externally. Many on the side-lines in various forms, people that understand we want to make a difference and that are willing to support. Even though we can’t offer them perhaps that compensation they are used to as simply said, we don’t have the means of a large company. Having a mentor is very important when growing a company. He kept me on track, mainly with the knowledge that growing phases in a company are completely normal and critical issues happen to everyone, it’s how you handle them that count.
Where are you looking to expand to next?
Canada and South-Korea are on the cards this year after China and the Middle East last year. There are actually about 15 other markets that would love to have our products, but we have always approached market growth step-by-step.
What is the best business advice you have received recently?
Many, but one that really helps when you have an over-cluttered mind is to clear your agenda for a half a day and create “white space” for yourself. If your mind is full there is no room for new insights. It’s ok to go for a long walk to empty your mind; you never have to feel guilty. Not sure if this is business advice, but mediating really does help to stay on track.
The best business advice you can give to someone?
Have a clear plan and mission about what it is you want to achieve and what type of company you are. We, for example, are very much driven by a social purpose, and that governs our decisions.
On top of that manage your cost structure, don’t spend if you don’t have the income.
Lastly, watch carefully what the market does. Being a small company you can continuously tweak your strategy in-line with what’s going on out there.
Who do you feel is an inspiration to your life?
Gandhi who said “be the change you want to see in the world”, great advice, but not always an easy path to follow; learning to be humble has such power. Perhaps it’s my Indian routes, but I also adore Vandana Sheeva, and her active roles in making unspoken issues visible, such as seed patents and the effect of globalisation on the farming communities in developing countries.
She stands for so much. I once had the pleasure of hearing her live and her goal to change practices in agriculture are inspiring. Being a scientist, she brings simple messages (in a complex structure) that makes sense. I hope her voice can grow louder and louder in this cluttered and busy media world.
What has been the winning moment in your personal life for you so far?
Again so many, from moving abroad as an 18-year-old, to working in large companies and learning the basics. To personal changes, being courageous to realise you have one life and the choices you make should lead you to live this life to the full, without compromise. That’s of course not always aligned with our current social norms. I think down-sizing from a large house to a 50% smaller flat, helped me de-clutter and realise that having less made me happier. Of course, having the honour to lead Lovechock is certainly among them.
Any setbacks you have come across so far?
Who hasn’t? Some of the toughest are usually financial, which was the case for Lovechock as a company having invested in the factory. We realised that we ’re no longer only driven by our passion for cacao and showing that living consciously is a pleasurable choice, but we had to learn that a production company has different rules. As I said this brings new opportunities but we needed a mind shift for this.
Have you at any point throughout your career trajectory had self-doubt?
I have them all the time J. But seriously yes I have, as a mixed-race kid in a foreign country and being a female, I have had many doubts cast on my capabilities. I don’t know if you have heard about the ‘Growth mindset, by Carol Dweck’, a great book, that after reading made me realise that what you don’t know can indeed be learned and everyone is capable of a different “growth” mindset. I’m not the same person that started on this journey 9 years ago and I’m happy to say I’m still learning every day.
How have you rallied through that?
Great friends and family. On top of those supporters, who believe in you even when you don’t.
Back to business, what are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
Sounds a bit business-like, but after my business partners left 2 years ago, I was in a fire-fighting mode; also perhaps hanging on to the past a little. Looking to the future it’s about making the Lovechock company all about our core mission to ‘Radiate the pleasure of conscious living’ and getting that message out there, that’s what we’re focusing on.
We want to win more fans for conscious living and show them that they can vote with their wallet every time they enjoy a Lovechock product.
Kickstarting a successful launch of our 2 new brands, Happy Rebel and Little Love in Germany and the Netherlands is also a goal within the team. We already have quite some distribution in Germany and this needs to be supported by our marketing team.
Furthermore, we’re creating a face-lift for our tablet range and will also be launching new products. As you can see there’s never a dull moment for our passionate team.
Again, we want everybody to understand that conscious living is not just for a chosen few, it’s for all of us.
What does success look like in your eyes?
A healthy financial situation, that allows us to focus on building a happy team to spread our message of being good to yourself, the people that grow our food without damaging mother nature.
What does it mean to you to truly #BEYOUROWN?
Standing for something and riding that roller-coaster, making sure you’re aware of what is changing and celebrating every turning point
What else is on the horizon for 2018 for you?
Me personally getting super fit and living a conscious and happy life.
Twitter: @lovechock | Instagram: @lovechock_official