Supporting and recognizing LGBT entrepreneurship is important. It gives visibility and establishes markers of possibility for other hopeful, future LGBT business owners. And supporting a Certified LBGT Business Enterprise is easy when it's something as delicious and responsible as Fair Trade sourced chocolate paired with non-GMO & organic ingredients like goji berries, sea salt pistachios or cinnamon almonds.
From Ladderworks: Hi friends! I'm Spiffy, your interplanetary journalist bringing you stories of amazing entrepreneurs from Planet Earth. Today, I bring to you my chat with Ben Conard (he/him), Founder, Five North Chocolate.
SPIFFY: Hi Ben, it's nice to meet you! What challenge are you addressing through your startup on Planet Earth?
BEN: Nice meeting you too, Spiffy! Traditionally, chocolate is loaded with guilt. Chocolate’s supply chain keeps thousands of cacao farmers, and even children, in poverty as a direct result of how the industry operates today. And lots of ingredients in our favorite treat are unhealthy and unnatural.
SPIFFY: That's really sad! What motivated you to take up this challenge?
BEN: Spiffy, I founded Five North Chocolate® as a naive college student who wanted to change the candy industry. I had come from years of advocacy in the fair trade movement. Trips to India and Ecuador helped me see, first-hand, the positive impact that sustainable supply chains can have on producers, farmers, and communities. And as an intern for the World Fair Trade Organization and a Commitment Maker at the Clinton Global Initiative University, I learned how to take my advocacy to action.
SPIFFY: Nice, Ben! I love your background! Tell me how are you using it and your startup to build a more equitable Planet Earth?
BEN: At Five North, we focus on three major pillars that guide us in everything we do: Health, Farmers, and Diversity. We created a better-for-you chocolate snack whose first ingredient, cacao, is actually a fruit! We are committed to sourcing only Fair Trade Certified™ cacao which makes it easy for our customers to enjoy their favorite snack without the guilt. Finally, we're a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise® and share, often, why this is important to us.
SPIFFY: Very cool, Ben! So, what's a recent milestone by your startup?
BEN: Last year, Five North Chocolate became the first brand ever to feature the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce seal on a packaged good. This radical introduction to the consumer packaged goods space means that our customers found at small specialty food shops, Bank of America, and everyone in between will see that proud mark on our package. This is an opportunity to spark conversations around diversity and to increase LGBTQ visibility in an unlikely place.
SPIFFY: Must've been a great feeling to see that seal on the packs! I'll deffo check it out too! Wanna tell me about an experience where you faced failure and didn't give up? What did you learn from failure?
BEN: Just one? Ha ;) One of my biggest failures happened during our first production run with our new co-packers. I missed one tiny (yet oh-so-large) detail... I did not instruct the production crew to label our freshly made chocolate snacks with 'best-by' dates. Well, we had late orders that needed to go out and I was the only one left on-site. So I got cracking :)
SPIFFY: I think failures exist to make our successes taste sweeter. Just like your chocolates! :) So, what's something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?
BEN: It's not about the title you're given, it's about the people you're with, the resources you have, and what you can do with the title that matters. (Thanks, AT!)
SPIFFY: So true! Well, time for me to take off! Thanks Ben and goodbye!
BEN: My pleasure, Spiffy, goodbye!
Dedicated to great taste, consumer health, and sustainable sourcing, Ben Conard founded Five North Chocolate®, an award winning, Certified LGBT Business Enterprise® supporting cacao farmers around the world by creating delicious, Fair Trade Certified™ chocolate snacks. For his work in the movement, Ben was named 40 LGBT Leaders Under 40. (Nominated for Spiffy's interview by: Devin Nash, Ambassador, One Young World)