Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Leila Carvajal Erker, Founder of Cocoa Supply, located in Brooklyn, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are a multi-generational family business that manufactures, imports, and distributes - directly without middlemen- cocoa products and other specialty ingredients from Ecuador to North America and Europe.
Our customers are the craft and artisanal food industry, such as chocolate makers, bakeries, breweries, cafes, ice cream makers, and also skin care products. Since we distribute our own products, no quantity is too small or too large, and we strive to have a close relationship with our customers.
Tell us about yourself
Born and raised in Ecuador in a family that started as farmers, it was clear to me that education was the key to success that brought us to be able to not just farm but also manufacture products that are ready to use in food preparation. My great-grandparents struggled as farmers but made sure that my grandfather and his siblings were able to study. That changed the destiny of the next generations. My father started the production of the ingredients and met my German mother while studying.
Because of that, I already grew up with an international perspective, and it was my goal to reach the final markets: USA/Canada and Europe. It was a key moment when consumers became more conscious about their food sources, and there is nothing more reassuring than knowing that what you are eating is not only delicious but also wholesome and nutritious. We strive for sustainability with fair and ethical trade from origin to consumer.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
For me, it is to know that we are making a difference. Our impact reaches from the farmer communities to the small craft businesses we supply. Our transparency is key for our customers not only to trust us but to promote their retail products through our direct and open-book supply chain.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Sometimes it's hard to realize that there is still so much work ahead. There is still child trafficking and slavery in some cocoa-producing countries, which we avoid as we do not want to promote these inhumane practices. But sometimes you feel impotent to such injustice, and that is difficult to accept that you cannot do it all.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Grow at your own pace and steadily.
- Follow the demand/market.
- Adapt to the market as it changes.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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