Why Did You Get Into The Chocolate Business?
After being a chef for 17 years I started to fall in love with chocolate. It's always been important to me to know where my food is coming from and sadly back in 2009 I couldn't find any chocolate for commercial use that had transparency being imported to New Zealand. Chocolate has a very dark sad side and when it's used to give to the ones you love it needs to be made with love, not blood. So I started to research the art of making chocolate. It didn't take long to connect with the right people to help me express my concerns with FairTrade and Trade Aid jumping in making it possible for me to start showcasing New Zealand's first made chocolate that was organic and Certified Fairtrade. This chocolate was under the name Cocoa Press. More and more interest started to unfolded and the Wellington Chocolate Factory was created.
You Sailed Beans Over From The Pacific - What Was That Like?
The Vaka adventure was a once in a lifetime adventure, endless seas, sunrises, sunsets, ducking from flying fish, being made to eat the heart of a Mahi Mahi fish, getting to know everyone you are with that little bit better, and being stuck at sea for 3 months. A trip I will never forget, it was life-changing. It all started when Sera Price who worked as a Volunteer (VSA) in Bougainville for 16 months and after for Tula International walked into the Wellington Chocolate Factory one day with a bag of Cocoa beans from Bougainville. So I tested the beans out and fell in love with the flavour and story of where the cocoa came from. Bougainville was the hardest country in the Pacific to directly export out of. You just couldn't then. However, my crazy business partner said let's sail there and get them. It's always been a dream to make chocolate with cocoa beans from the Pacific our Neighbors and to make sure we are saving on our Carbon footprint (the first bean I ever made into chocolate was from Fiji). There are a lot of unique flavors of cocoa right through the Pacific that was hardly being touched by artisan chocolate makers at that time. Cocoa is like wine and coffee with its flavour profiles. A whole new world of flavour. On the voyage, we stopped at a couple of other islands first being Vanuatu and 3rd being the Solomon Islands leaving from Fiji. I loved the culture, food and especially tasting the cocoa beans, chocolate and meeting many cocoa farms and farmers from all 4 islands on our trip. Bouganville is one beautiful Island. It's been some time since we sailed off into the unknown however the chocolate/cocoa industry has grown fast with more and more farmers producing very high quantity cocoa, especially in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.
I would jump at the chance to do it all again.
What Lessons Would You Share With Other Women Looking To Forge A Path Like You Have?
I think that women need to be aware of owning their voice. It is recognising that you have the experience, knowledge, confidence, and right to sit at the table you are at. If you are not at the table that you want to be at, you have a right to change courses and navigate getting there. As women, we sometimes become a wallflower as we are unsure if we should voice our opinions or ask for better. Women should find their voice and use it confidently because we have a lot to say and there is a lot to be said. Don't let go of your passion even if it seems impossible.