A Recipe for Success

Chocolate is one of Mexico’s contributions to the world. There is an ancient Mayan myth that says that cacao beans were given to men by the gods. Mayans were also entrepreneurs with extensive production and distribution of goods and resources outside of their cities. Fast forward to 2012…

Amelia Gonzalez and Arcelia Gallardo figured out how to combine the legacies of their Mesoamerican ancestors with a passion for Latino culture, arts and fine chocolates. After building impressive careers, the two friends joined forces to start a unique artisan chocolate shop in Berkeley, CA called Casa de Chocolates, Inc. Casa de Chocolates is known for its inventive flavor combinations (dark chocolate, chipotle, Oaxacan mezcal, maracuya, chile mango, tamarindo) emblematic of the rich foods and flavors of Latin America.

Casa de Chocolates opened its first retail location and artisan kitchen in Berkeley this past year and draws its inspiration from traditional chocolates, desserts, flavors and images of Mexico, Central America and South America. Casa de Chocolates products are unique creations made from whole, high quality, natural ingredients. And beyond the retail space, Casa de Chocolates takes orders at www.casadechocolates.com and ships anywhere in the U.S.

Amelia and Arcelia’s plan for building Casa de Chocolates is simple: they aim to build a beautiful space to present and deliver their beautiful chocolate products and delicious desserts. They selected Berkeley for the chocolate shop because of its long history of supporting small entrepreneurs who seek to create wholesome products that are consistent with the sustainable food movement for which this wonderful city is known. After less than a year in operation, Amelia and Arcelia have succeeded in launching an artisan chocolate shop that has received rave reviews from Travel & Leisure, the SF Chronicle, Latina Magazine and others. Concurrently, they have made a commitment to the community and partner with others in the Bay Area who share their vision for sustainable business and community-building. They also are taking concrete steps to partner with cocoa farmers in Mexico and Central America to make sure they too benefit from the growing market for artisan chocolates in the United States. That holistic approach will provide a strong foundation for yet another successful Latina-owned small business, which is very important in moving America forward.

According to the latest Census Bureau findings, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States increased by 43.7 percent to 2.3 million, more than twice the national rate of 18.0 percent between 2002 and 2007. Hispanic-owned businesses generated $345.2 billion in sales in 2007, up 55.5 percent compared with 2002 and the number of Hispanic-owned businesses with receipts of $1 million or more increased 51.6 percent between 2002 and 2007. Those numbers are projected to grow even more exponentially by the next Census.

Verizon and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) have teamed up to host a series of small business-focused, evening symposia across America through the Latinos On Fast Track (LOFT) program. The national effort aims to bring local entrepreneurs like Amelia and Arcelia and other business leaders together to network; share challenges and opportunities; and receive knowledge and guidance from a panel of local business leaders and Verizon representatives who have experience supporting local business.

“At Casa de Chocolates, we are inspired by a passion for Latin American culture, flavors and sensibilities,” said Amelia. “We aspire to introduce our customers to the fascinating and complex history of chocolate---originating from the people of Mesoamerica who started their love affair with cacao as far back as 1200 B.C.“

However, in the 21st century, those ingredients for a successful business need to be mixed with capital, a network of other small-business owners, technology and ganas. Casa de Chocolates has it covered in more ways than in rich, dark, delicious chocolate.

America is counting on Amelia and Arcelia and many other Latino/Latina entrepreneurs to succeed and HHF and Verizon want to be part of the mix.

Jose Antonio Tijerino is the President and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.