Askinosie Chocolate is more than candy maker
SPRINGFIELD, MO. – The Askinosie Chocolate company was created through a leap of faith by Shawn Askinosie, a former lawyer who followed his passion for crafting chocolate from scratch.
After spending many years as a lawyer, he grew weary of and felt he needed a change. He poured his life savings into starting one of the first craft chocolate companies in the United States with his daughter, Lawren Askinosie. Lawren began working with her dad at the age of 16, graduated from high school at 16, and transitioned to the full-time position of chief marketing officer after graduation from Drury University. The pair share a passion for the business and the successful business model they have developed.
Askinosie Chocolate is committed to fairness, sustainability, minimal environmental impact, and community enhancement locally and for the communities of the farmers they do business with. These commitments are at the core of the company’s values and continue to guide its operations every day.
“We’re dedicated not just to making the best quality chocolate you can buy, but to making it in such a way that the more you learn about it, the better you feel about it,” Shawn, who also serves as CEO, said.
By creating this culture and interacting personally with their retailers by educating them about the process and how they have helped the farmers they buy from, the Askinosies have created a business model that encourages prices that can make a difference locally and in the countries they source from. The chocolate making process starts with sourcing the finest cocoa beans directly from small farmers in remote regions of Ecuador, the Amazon, Tanzania and the Philippines.
“It’s more than a business transaction; it’s about building relationships with the farmers who are not just business partners but friends,” Lawren said.
In pursuing ethical practices, Askinosie Chocolate’s profit-sharing model is revolutionary. They pay the cocoa farmers significantly above the per-ton Fair Trade market price for their cocoa beans. They visit the farmers in person and pay them in cash at the end of each selling cycle. This eliminates layers of middlemen, ensures clarity, and empowers the farmers to invest back into their businesses and communities. The company employs shade growing, inter-cropping, and organic pest control methods to ensure responsible cultivation practices. All the farmers they work with commit to healthful and ethical business practices, ensuring there is no child or enslaved person labor and fair wages.
The company practices transparent, open-book management within the factory and with the farmers. This transparency allows them to see how their beans contribute to the company’s overall profit and encourages collaboration to improve farming methods and yields.
The packaging is also biodegradable and features photos of the farmers who grew the beans used for that product. They have spent a lot of time creating a sustainable, ethical model and have proven that quality vs. quantity can grow a business. Lawren and her father have written a book, “Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul,” about their quest to create a company that produces a profit and feeds their soul.
One way they give back locally is through their Chocolate University and by visiting Boyd Elementary and Pipkin Middle School to educate students about chocolate making, entrepreneurship, and their business model, a source of inspiration for local students.
Once students reach high school, they can apply to be a part of their “Chocolate University.” This experiential learning program allows local students to travel, learn about business, chocolate making, and that small businesses can solve world problems. The program educates students about the chocolate industry and immerses them in Tanzanian culture and cacao agronomy. By fostering entrepreneurship and cultural exchange, they empower students to be global citizens with a vision for positive change.
Askinosie Chocolate’s commitment to making a positive impact in Tanzania is evident through two programs: the Empowered Girls and the Enlightened Boys programs. Both initiatives aim to empower young individuals in the Kyela district of southwestern Tanzania to become leaders in their schools and communities.
The Empowered Girls program focuses on educating, training, and empowering girls to raise their voices and recognize their inherent worth and potential. Through education, awareness-building, leadership training, and life skills development, the program helps girls build positive self-esteem and self-awareness. The program also collaborates with local schools and communities to address social issues.
The Enlightened Boys program complements the Empowered Girls program by providing boys with the tools and knowledge to become leaders in their schools and villages. The program emphasizes cultivating positive male role models and empowering boys with leadership skills and social responsibility. Through workshops, interactive sessions, and discussions, boys learn essential life skills like communication, problem-solving, decision-making, and conflict resolution. The program encourages boys to pursue education with dedication, leading to improved retention and graduation rates among male students.
Both programs share the goal of building a future generation of compassionate, responsible leaders committed to positively impacting their communities. By nurturing confidence, self-belief, and a sense of social responsibility, Askinosie Chocolate empowers young individuals to be advocates for positive change, creating a ripple effect of inspiration and positivity in the region.
An Award-Winning Business Model
Askinosie Chocolate has received numerous awards for their exceptional craft chocolate. They received the Good Food Award, Academy of Chocolate Award, International Chocolate Award, Northwest Chocolate Festival Award, Specialty Food Association Award, and the London Academy of Chocolate Award.
These awards acknowledge the incredible taste and quality of Askinosie Chocolate and highlight their commitment to ethical and sustainable practices. Through their Direct Trade model, they have demonstrated that responsible business practices can produce exceptional chocolate while positively impacting cocoa farmers and their communities. Askinosie Chocolate’s recognition in these esteemed awards showcases its dedication to creating delicious chocolate with a conscience.
They have recently begun to age chocolate in barrels and created new products using it.
“We released a bar that had been aged for five years and won more awards than we had ever won before,” Lawren said. “We also have begun producing a whiskey-soaked cocoa nibs product that is going really well.”
As they continue to craft delicious, ethical chocolate that directly supports cocoa farmers, Askinosie Chocolate’s message will spread far and wide, inspiring others to join the journey towards a sweeter, more sustainable world.
In the end, Askinosie Chocolate is not just about the chocolate; it’s about the people — the farmers, the employees, the students, the customers, and the communities. The Askinosies have woven social responsibility into everything they do, and their dedication to fairness, sustainability, and community enhancement will be with them as long as the company exists.