Business Schools

Going for the Sweet Spot


This ESSEC grad's Parisian chocolate company focuses on doing good as well as tasting good

I'm the founder and CEO of Choc'ethic, the Paris-based company behind Puerto Cacao, a vendor of luxury chocolates and chocolate products. Using organic ingredients, our company also has an ethical focus on improving the living standards of small cocoa producers in countries such as Venezuela and providing jobs to disadvantaged people in France.

Valentine's Day is a big day for chocolate in France. We have been preparing our store and our product range for this occasion for the past 10 days, but people just started to buy Valentine's Day products last weekend.

Last October, at 24 years old, I graduated from ESSEC Business School and opened my chocolate store. Now, as CEO, my responsibilities include managing my team, running financial and technical analysis for new products, setting pricing policy, and buying raw materials from producers in Venezuela and suppliers in France (see BusinessWeek.com, 2/12/07, "Pure Chocolate Indulgence").

I also plan our marketing and communication strategy, work on our fair-trade chain development with producers in Venezuela, and set up a microcredit system for them.

After a short stint in accounting at Ernst & Young, I took a break to work as a consultant in Latin America and experience new cultures. I worked in economic services in Venezuela, then cultural services in Mexico's Federal District. It was in Mexico that I had my "illumination" to set up a chocolate business. Returning to B-school with a focus on entrepreneurship, finance, and marketing classes, I opened my chocolate store in Paris after 18 months of preparation.

We sell delicious handcrafted chocolate products, all of which respect fair-trade principles. We're also an "integration company," which means we hire and train two long-term unemployed people so that they can work stable jobs in a good company. We also employ two other full-time employees, and one student for a six-month training period.

My company is very young, so activity isn't stable enough for me to have a typical work day. But here's an example of one December day before the holidays:

6:30 a.m.—Wake up.

7:30 a.m.—Visit a "Metro" store, a popular vendor in Paris, to buy supplies for the Christmas season. This includes equipment for the chocolate lab, bags, and gift packaging (see BusinessWeek.com slide show, 10/06, "The Making of a Chocolate Bar").

10 a.m.—Meet with two other entrepreneurs. We work closely together to create an association called "Resonance," which aims to help our small producers' working conditions. For instance, we're developing microcredit activities for workers in Venezuela...

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Hermitte can be reached at guillaume.hermitte@choc-ethic.fr.

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