Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Did you know most of the world's chocolate comes from the Ivory Coast and Ghana? The oldest chocolate maker, Switzerland, gets its cocoa beans from Ghana. Yet, Ghana doesn't readily produce its own chocolate. What's more, is Ghana then purchases these chocolates in the form of candy bars sold by external retailers.
For many developing countries, this is their story. Their inability to use, produce, and profit off of their natural resources to improve their economy, leads to them relying on other countries for survival. Mostly, these developing countries haven't received proper education on the imbalances of their economy's structures.
However, there are two sisters Kimberly and Priscilla Addison, who are committed to changing Ghana's narrative. They educate the community while providing a product that is locally sourced and manufactured in Ghana. Black Girl Ventures spoke with Priscilla from the Addison sisters, who founded the chocolate company '57 Chocolate.
The Launch Of '57
Kimberly and Priscilla were both living in Switzerland when the idea came to them. "My sister and I visited a chocolate factory in Switzerland. We learned about how chocolate was made, and that's when we found out that Ghana was the largest producer in cocoa beans, but it isn't known for its chocolate." Priscilla said.
When they returned to Ghana in 2014, they decided to visit a grocery store to verify if there indeed was or wasn't any Ghanaian chocolates. To their bewilderment, they could not find any chocolate produced from Ghana.
So, the Addison sisters decided to create the chocolate themselves. "The '57 chocolate is a reflection and celebration of Ghanaian art and culture," Priscilla said. They decorated these elegantly packaged chocolate bars with art from Ghana.
'57 is the innovative bean to bar chocolate bar. The Addison sisters take the dry cocoa beans and process them into delectable chocolates and confections. Priscilla said, "We challenge the status quo that premium chocolates can only be made in Europe."
The number 57 pays homage to the crucial year of 1957 is when Ghana gained its independence from the British. At that time, Ghana manufactured its products. But, none of those manufacturing companies exist today. "We want to take it back to the good 'ol days." The Addison sisters aspire to bring manufacturing back to Ghana.
Educating The Youth
"We want to reinspire the importance of manufacturing into the youth and to the people of Ghana." She said. The Addison sisters speak at schools for free. Recently, Kimberly hosted primary school children educating them about chocolate making. The goal is to teach the people of Ghana how Ghana doesn't readily produce chocolate and why it's crucial for Ghana's economy. People must begin to believe that Africa can make products as good if not superior to foreign products. "We hear it a lot. This was made in Ghana?" Priscilla said.
What the Addison sisters are doing is quite revolutionary. History showcases how manufacturing is the foundation of great power. Wealthy countries with stronger economic growth and strong job markets are wealthy because they control the production of goods.
The Addison sisters believe in showing the people how to add value to the cocoa bean by identifying the multiple ways it can be used and produced. "You know Ghana has bamboo yet exports it to create toothpicks. The government is not investing in the youth and encouraging them to be innovative by starting businesses," Priscilla said.
The Proudest Moment
"We are really proud of turning an idea into a real product that people have grown to love. There are people from all over the world who are enjoying our chocolates, from Russia to the Maldives." Priscilla said. The '57 brand is not just making chocolates; they are globalizing what Ghana has to offer the world.
The Fears And Setbacks
"Honestly, my biggest fear is not creating a business that lives beyond a lifetime. We don't want to be non-existent when it's all said and done." Priscilla said. The desire to create a legacy isn't uncommon. As entrepreneurs and business owners, there's this concept of being involved in something bigger than you. Something that will continue to create ripple effects even long after you're gone.
Priscilla laughed, "We have setbacks all the time. The electricity isn't stable here in Ghana. They call it "dumsor dumsor," which means lights on lights off. Because of that instability, it was difficult for us to produce the chocolate, so we had to purchase a generator." Even with these challenges, the why is what pulls these Addison sisters forward.
Unreliable suppliers are what slows the production down. Keep in mind; most suppliers won't be able to supply business owners forever. It's crucial to have contingency plans in place and have multiple backup suppliers. The Addison sisters vacillate between 5-6 suppliers. And their ultimate goal is to preserve everything in Ghana.
Lessons From The Very First Pitch Competition
"This was my very first pitch competition. My sister does the public speaking, but we've been facing our fears to strengthen our skills," Priscilla said. Perfection exists only in practice. And that's what Priscilla did. After she and her sister created their pitch deck, she then wrote bullet points for what she would say for each slide.
Next, she practiced in front of her sister through Skype. Kimberly coached her through the presentation. "My sister said, have a conversation with the audience and don't sound too rehearsed. Just talk from the heart." Knowing your story is a critical part of the pitch. Sure, the numbers and data matter, but when the audience connects to the story, and they feel it, they can relate to you. Make them understand why the business matters and what makes the business unique--you will hook the investors.
The Fundamental Skills Of Every Business Owner
"You can't be comfortable with the norm, and you can't continue to do things the same." Most entrepreneurs understand that it's essential to be flexible and adaptable. Owning a business is less than predictable. Those who can handle change will be more successful than others because when setbacks happen, adaptability equals resiliency.
Priscilla continues to say communication is crucial. Especially in the face of customers. She suggests business owners understand their customer's likes and dislikes. Also, when companies are dealing with products, it's necessary to know how to get the products to the clients the quickest way possible. For businesses that have a good following, then most likely, those customers will provide insight and metrics to scale the business. Bottom line: listen to your customers.
What's It Like Having A Business Partner
"I feel lucky to have a business partner that goes as hard at the business as much as I do," Priscilla said. One of the biggest problems that entrepreneurs face is loneliness. Starting a business is rough, and having to do it solo while making all the decisions can leave business owners feeling depleted.
Despite their contrasting personalities, Priscilla cites having someone to bounce ideas with, to fill in, in places where each of them is weak has helped their business to grow. It helps to remove the ego out of the equation because being humble helps to strengthen relationships.
Keep in mind, being heard is the key to success for business with two or more founders. In the end, effective communication is what's going to help drive the business further in the right direction. Having two founders increases the odds of raising more capital as opposed to going at it alone.
Have A Self-Care Practice
Business owners who have a self-care practice will be able to face life's challenges more gracefully than those who don't. Priscilla exercises in the morning between three to four times per week. "When you feel good, you end up doing good work," Priscilla says. She also loves listening to music and dancing. Lastly, she often enjoys cooking and checking out new restaurants.
What's Next For '57 Chocolate
Chocolate fanatics can purchase '57 chocolate at Nubian Hueman, Soul And Story Inc, and of course, on the '57 chocolate website. The Addison sisters are going to build out their eCommerce store fully. Next, they have dedicated themselves to position their products in storefronts.
They hope people see their products, read about their stories, and understand they are committed to their business. They would like to expand the production of '57 chocolate--and then when the time comes, they will expand the workforce through providing jobs.
Best business productivity tool: Canva allows business owners to create social graphics to enhance their businesses.
Best app: WhatsApp allows them to connect with their customers quicker.
Podcast: Jesus and Jollof by Yvonne & Luvie. It relates to African stories and culture. But, the podcast speaks about relevant issues that occur throughout the world.
Book: Maya Angelou My Letter To My Daughter, the protagonist discusses her childhood experiences as a young girl and the life lessons learned. Even more, it's witnessing the transition from young adulthood to womanhood.