Last week we talked about the importance of slowing down to listen to cacao.
Today we’ll dive into why Ora Cacao values taking things slow as a company, keeping us in integrity with the teachings of Cacao. Running Ora Cacao and keeping up with all the messages and dynamic situations that come up often feels plenty fast paced! So deliberately choosing slowness, choosing to be thoughtful in how much we take on, keeps us grounded and nourished. It’s a constant practice and internal retraining that we’re getting better at as we go.
Our team has four people who have experienced running their own businesses, and we’ve all over-worked and burnt out. We love cacao and what we do so much, that we’re very conscious that we need to pace ourselves wisely. It would be very sad if we burnt out from cacao! The constant fast pace of most businesses is not in alignment with the natural world. Nature moves at her own intelligent pace that is cyclical in nature. Sometimes with great cycles of growth, like in spring, and other times, she moves slowly, the seeds go deep underground, and await the next best moment to sprout.
That’s why cacao has taught us to allow ourselves our own cycles. Flexibility with our employees, taking breaks in between bursts, even allowing pauses. You might remember how our Colombian cacao was unavailable for a long period of time. We were in a long cycle with it, listening and learning, and it was important to honor that.
One way that we manage our pace is that we’ve deliberately opted to grow with debt rather than outside investment, staying honest and humble about our abilities, and not rushing ahead of where we are. At past companies we’ve been part of, our team has seen the pressure and harm that outside investors can bring to a business, who even if they are mission aligned are also driven by return on investment. That can drive an unsustainable pace! Furthermore, it’s return on investment that is measured in dollars, which misses countless benefits a business like ours provides from ecosystem services to farmer livelihoods that aren’t properly accounted for in today’s system.
We’ve recently seen two popular chocolate bar brands acquired by conglomerates. Hu Chocolate with its coconut sugar sweetened bars is now part of Mondelez, who also produces Oreo cookies. Theo Chocolate in Seattle, an icon of bean to bar chocolate, is closing its factory and merging with American Licorice Co, a large candy manufacturer. An acquisition can mean a company reaches new audiences, but it can also result in reduction of product quality and brand values. People are often surprised when their favorite companies sell out, but from our perspective it’s not surprising at all. Rather it is part of the model of fast growth, that behind the scenes requires substantial investment, that can then force a sale to a big company.
In cacao ceremony, we move slowly, we listen, we seek to honor and care for nature. For us to be in integrity with the medicine of cacao, we take our guidance from her teachings. While we can’t know what is ahead of us, we can rest easy in that we are beholden not to investors, but to our relationship with cacao and with you. Growing any business does take capital infusion, and in the next couple years especially we’re looking at big investments in cacao purchases that we’ll have to be very wise with our cash flow for. It’s worth every bit of creativity and effort - we take pride in our independence so we can stay true to the spirit of cacao.
The longer we stay strong in our business model, the more we can continue being an example of the fact that business, especially one that provides a plant medicine like cacao, doesn’t have to be exploitative. We can keep showing up for our farmers, year after year. We can be in harmony with the Earth and her rhythms, honoring the lands, and honoring the people who so lovingly and devotedly tend to her. And we can love working at Ora and continue to be inspired!