We sat down with Kathleen Fulton, co-founder and Chief Design Officer of Taza Chocolate to learn how they built the first Direct Trade Certified chocolate manufacturing company and a global brand that makes seriously good stone ground chocolate. Find Taza's Peppermint Dark Bark in our Shop Local, Think Global Holiday Gift Box.
Tell us a bit about your brand mission and vision - what motivated you to start your brand?
When I met my husband, Alex, he was working through a business idea and had already written a business plan for a chocolate cafe. He was motivated to take on the challenge of creating something from scratch, and he was inspired by Mexican-style chocolate. We didn't plan on starting this business together—it just happened. He shared his business idea with me, I told him it wasn't a great one because retail overhead is high and the hours are confining. We worked together to build something that—not surprisingly—suits our personalities and skill sets better: a chocolate manufacturing company. We make, we do, we create. We're different. We're bold. We're not afraid to try and then try again. Our mission is to make and share stone ground chocolate that is seriously good and fair for all. We founded Taza in 2005 and inked our mission in 2006. I am proud to say we have stuck to it. Our vision is to keep doing what we do well better, to keep our pipes filled, and to keep our staff and customers happy.
What's your personal self-care or beauty routine?
This is a funny question for me because I am a 41-year-old woman who has three young daughters and I am at the point where I am realizing that I am already sharing my routine with them even if I think I have no routine, so this is a good chance for me to review it. My basic routine is pretty simple: get a good night's sleep, exercise and eat well. I wake up every morning around five, drink coffee and then work out for roughly an hour and fifteen minutes before anyone else in the house gets up. This is my serious me, self-care, prep-for-the-day time. The closest I come to meditation is when I work out. I make plans, I solve problems, I clear my head. I listen to NPR! I love it! In terms of beauty, I am an utter minimalist. I learned this from my mom, and I guess I may be teaching my kids the same thing. I just started using Giovanni shampoo and conditioner. I have thick dry hair. I use Andalou 30 SPF face lotion, Tom's of Maine deodorant and Aveeno hand and body lotion. I don't wear makeup. At night, I put Alaffia Shea Butter on my face. That sums it up!
Any funny stories to share from your early startup days?
Lots. The one that stands out to me wasn't early start-up days. We were about 6 years deep building Taza when we had our first daughter, Cora, and we were having a summer bbq in the backyard of the factory which is literally a car junkyard. I asked my husband, Alex, to watch Cora, who was just about a year old. About five minutes later, I turned around and saw Cora placed on an overturned trash can lid in the middle of the party with a couple of plastic bottles to play with. This was our, and her, normal.
What's one thing people might not know about you?
I love reality TV. Actually, most people who know me, know that. Not much. I am a pretty open book and I am not shy, so if you know me, you know me.
What's next for your brand?
We're going to stick to our mission, keep making bold chocolate but go back to our roots and focus on the fact that we are a manufacturing company. We literally make chocolate. I say that without complete awe because I do not personally make chocolate, and am in awe of our manufacturing team. It is an art!
What specific advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?Be bold and don't be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable and you will learn from them!