· By Emily Cunningham
A Conversation with Divine Chocolate
How did Divine Chocolate get its start, and what makes your way of doing business unique?
Divine Chocolate started with a group of Ghanaian farmers who wanted to create a fair and efficient way of selling cocoa beans that would give back to their community. This lead to the creation of Kuapa Kokoo, a co-operative made up of cocoa farmers in Ghana. Kuapa Kokoo had four main goals in mind at its foundation: bringing a farmer-owned company to market, net gains going back to the farmers, payment for cocoa beans would be in cash and not credit, and having added premiums which would go into social programs. These four goals continue to this day, and Kuapa has also been a leading example in the way it focuses on the inclusion of women at all levels of leadership. Today, the co-op is led by President Fatima Ali, and owns 44% of Divine Chocolate. Two members of Kuapa Kokoo are also on the Divine Chocolate Board of Directors.
Tell us a story about a particular farming family and how Divine has impacted their lives.
My favorite is about Margret Fianko. She is a mother of three and shares a 7 acre farm with her husband where the majority of land is dedicated to cocoa production and has been a member of Kuapa for 13 years. She never went to school but is now a participant in a Divine-funded numeracy and literacy program managed by Kuapa Kokoo and facilitated by Ghana’s Non Formal Education Division. Before the course she said, “I couldn’t read and couldn’t write, but now I can recognize letters and read." She has put her newly learned numeracy skills to good use to record the expenditure and income of the market stall she runs. Margret was proud to report back to us that she now knows how much money she makes and only spends the profit. Her ambition is to one day be elected as a Kuapa recorder—someone responsible for buying cocoa from other Kuapa members—and is making good progress towards learning the skills necessary for this position.
What do you love most about your job?
I love heading into work every day knowing that I am making a positive difference in people’s lives. When I hear stories like Margret’s, it just makes every long day at work worth it. Having my workplace and I align on the same values - wage justice, women’s rights, and education for all to name a few - makes me even more proud to say I work for Divine.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
The best tips I've heard are from the Divine Chocolate CEO, Sophi Tranchell. Forbes did a fantastic interview with her called 7 Tips for Success for Social Entrepreneurs
What's the next big thing for Divine Chocolate?
Divine Chocolate was recently certified as a B Corporation, and we're excited to meet others in this fantastic network of companies who use business as a force for good!