From ethical to organic, and fair-trade to inclusive employment, Mara Mennicken is molding the way businesses look at community impact through her example. Mara is the owner and chocolate making master at The Good Chocolatier, a Vancouver company.
While previously reluctant to even run a business (because of her distaste for the negative impact of how businesses are often run), after a couple of years of volunteering with a friend, she eventually took over his business. And turned up the temperature on its community impact.
The Good Chocolatier employs several people with autism by partnering with the PALS Autism Society. In this episode, we dive into how she made this happen, how it’s essential to how she does business now, and how you can also find ways to partner with marginalized communities or people with employment barriers.
About Mara Mennicken
Mara is a chocolate lover and health enthusiast. Raised into an ethical way of life, she was always concerned with the story behind a product. During a journey to Thailand for Yoga Teacher Training, she went vegan, and also discovered a deep indulgence for dark chocolate. Coming to Canada as a University Student, she studied social enterprises and community impact, while continuing to develop her love of chocolate making, and eventually became the owner for The Good Chocolatier.
Find Mara on LinkedIn
About The Good Chocolatier
The Good Chocolatier is a hand-made chocolate company based in Vancouver, Canada that uses all organic, fair-trade ingredients. They pride themselves on exceptionally quality by partnering with cacao growers and makers in Ecuador, and local suppliers of other ingredients. They also employ several people with autism as part of their production process, creating inclusive employment opportunities.
Everything We Talked About In This Episode
[04:31] How chocolate making started for Mara
[05:36] First day of university Mara met Pierre Gruget, the previous owner of the Good Chocolatier
[06:53] She started volunteering and apprenticing directly with Pierre to help him out
[07:58] Never thought of being a business owner, Mara studied community development, saw problems as a result of business
[09:44] Pierre was only about finding the best way to make chocolate, ethical, organic, etc. but not business growth
[10:19] How Mara started to look at partnerships to build community and inclusive employment into her business
[12:39] “How have we created a society that is based on money but not everyone has access to it?” – Mara Mennicken
[14:08] How did you get into hiring people with employment barriers, what were the first hires?
[14:35] “You help individuals better if you help their whole community” – Mara Mennicken
[16:27] Reference to partner, PALS Autism Society
[17:12] How finding jobs for people with Autism is more than just what they can do, it’s the support and community needed to make it a comfortable solution
[20:17] What should we be doing differently to create more inclusive environments?
[21:14] “I think there’s no barrier whatsoever for small businesses to start a social enterprise part of their organization” – Mara Mennicken
[23:45] Tip to hire people with employment barriers: Work with a community instead of 1 person
[25:14] The hard part at the beginning is the relationship building and finding the right community fit that works for your business model
[26:40] Where do flavours and ideas come from?
[28:04] The origins of Cacao and the importance of ethically sourced and produced chocolate
[29:51] Joel tries the chocolate! Here’s the winter special package we’re sampling: https://www.thegoodchocolatier.com/product-page/winter-special
[31:23] Mara is really the only one who experiments with different sweeteners instead of just different cacao sources
[34:27] Raw Cacao is considered a superfood – try replacing your coffee with it 🙂
[35:35] Mara’s journey of working and running this social enterprise on the side
[36:54] The real reason she had to take a job to keep it going
[42:35] The advice Mara shares with other businesses and entrepreneurs
[43:40] Reference to Embers Vancouver as an inclusive employment solution