FZ: I’ve always had an interest in chocolate products from a young age, so it felt like a natural transition to work in the industry. I immersed myself into the world of chocolate, working for a non-profit called The Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute under the aegis of Professor Carla Martin and an organic cocoa farm dedicated to bird conservation and biodiversity based in the Dominican Republic. Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with business owners, chocolate educators, researchers and industry leaders. This allowed me to learn first hand about the hard work that goes into making chocolate, and most importantly the impact that companies who engage in direct trade and transparent sourcing practices can have on the very people who make it all possible: cocoa farmers.
What led me to starting a business in specialty chocolate is how little presence the West African region had, both on shelves and at industry events. Representing over 70% of the cocoa worldwide output, Ghana and Ivory Coast deserve particular attention.
ZORA’s mission is to champion a radical change in the way we see West African cocoa and chocolate. We want to celebrate and recognize the largest cocoa growing producers in the world, and shift the narrative of our beautiful and resourceful continent: Africa.
As a North African, Moroccan woman, I am proud of what we are building at ZORA, respecting and recognizing all players within the supply chain and creating a product that bridges the gap between cocoa farmers and chocolate eaters.
- Meeting and learning from cocoa farmers in Ghana
- Challenging myself and pushing myself out of my comfort zone
- Meeting like minded individuals who care about the same things and are passionate.
- The fulfillment that I feel, when I can tangibly see the difference we are making and the potential that ZORA can have.
FZ: Growing our DTB sales channel, working with like minded partners who value sustainable practices and quality products.
FZ: I’ve encountered many roadblocks at every stage of the journey.
Consumer landscape and consumer education has been by far the biggest challenge.
Unlike other specialty foods & beverages, like coffee or wine, the bean-to-bar process and craft chocolate is talked about a lot less. The difficulty has been in getting chocolate lovers to adventure out into the world of specialty chocolate, understand the work that goes into the production, and paying attention to the flavor journey that you can take with different origins.
Luckily, the industry is very friendly, and companies are working together to create more education and awareness around specialty chocolate.
FZ: Mornings are where I am most productive. I am currently in Morocco, so that means, I am 5 hours ahead of the US EST and 8 hours PST.
Taking time for myself is a must. I have noticed that I am at my best when I prioritize my wellbeing.
I wake up at 7:00am and make sure to move my body. This can mean a run, a walk, a quick pilates session or just a stretch. Meditation then breakfast in the morning which is generally fruits and a matcha latte. I like to make sure I am fully powered to start my day off on a fabulous note.
I don’t usually have any meetings until 1:00pm with the time difference, which really allows me to get things done, answer all my emails, prepare for any meetings and work on any pending items in the mornings.
Lunch is usually at the office.
Afternoons consist of all my meetings, any onboarding with retailers, applications to grants or programs, checking in on pending orders, inventory, and tracking our progress.
I usually end my day around 6:00pm, unless I have any calls. Depending on how I am feeling I will unwind and disconnect with watching a show, catching up with my family, or a fun workout. I usually have dinner early, and either use this time to do any research that I need to do or catch up on my reading. Lately I’ve been reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle and I am totally absorbed by it.
FZ: Our purpose and impact
- ZORA represents
- Setting an example for other brands and entrepreneurs
I believe in the meaningful work that we are doing at ZORA, and what the ZORA brand represents. The African continent is a resourceful and resilient continent, with so much to offer, and that is the story I want to tell, through chocolate.
FZ: Grateful to have such a strong partnership with Cocoa360 who work so hard at maintaining and growing the Tarkwa Breman Girls’ School.
One result of the financial inequalities faced by cocoa farmers in Ghana is that 75% of their children do not attend Early Childhood Education. That is huge. For cocoa farming families who can enroll their children in Early Childhood Education, the odds remain stacked against them. This is because compared to 79% of their urban peers, only 61% of 3-4-year-old children in rural Ghana are developmentally on track.
Cocoa360 serves 8 communities with 270 enrolled at their school. Prioritizing education for girls’ in rural Ghana is alo an important initiative and we are honored to be able to take part in it.
This fall we are launching our ZORA collection box, just in time for the holiday’s and include our entire product range, which will allow chocolate lovers to sponsor one full week of school with each box.
FZ: I would encourage budding chocolatiers to open themselves up to learning more about cocoa and the process of making chocolate, which is not something that is taught in most culinary schools.
Chocolate has a story beyond its form, with people who grow it, farms passed through generations, and different techniques that are used to direct flavor. This industry is filled with untapped opportunities.
If chocolatiers begin taking a greater interest in the chocolate making process, from bean-to-bar, this industry can grow, and this could also be a great way to involve farmers. Building the bridge between the culinary masterminds behind such delicious products and the hardworking, passionate farmers behind the crops.