Description: Jael is humble, smart, and super cool...the kind of cool with leather jackets and bangs, as if a modern (clothed) Bettie Page were making bonbons. Now she co-runs French Broad Chocolates, with 80 employees and growing, and a new chocolate factory expansion around the corner. Alice Medrich's Bittersweet launched her into following her chocolate journey until the day she proclaimed "chocolate is the thing that will make me happy." Local food philosophy has always played an important role in the businesses she co-creates, and even to this day, eleven years after settling in Asheville, North Carolina, FBC continues to take chocolate, food partnerships, and local community seriously.
Jael's story is also deeply connected to her husband Dan Rattigan, partner in life and business. From rolling truffles to dropping out of grad school together, buying a 40 ft school bus and transforming it into a used-vegetable-oil-running-RV, from Minnesota to the southern coast of Costa Rica and back up towards NC, their love and business savvy blossomed along the way.
Themes discussed in this episode:
- Hitting the road with your passions onboard...literally
- The success of 'Bread & Chocolate' the Rattigan's first venture, a breakfast/lunch/dessert cafe with a from-scratch kitchen confirmed their obsession with making and sourcing directly
- Choosing Asheville, NC - great food scene, wonderful outdoor activities, local business support
- Moving from a chocolatier business model to a bean-to-bar 'chocolate lounge'
- Your business foundation outlasting you; long term planning & forecasting several years ahead
- Listening to customers, employees, trends
- Telling the story of chocolate & defining your company's manifesto as your North Star to communicate to employees and customers
- Scaling up to accommodate 12,000 square feet in a repurposed factory building, with a capacity of 70 metric tonnes of craft chocolate
- Certifications on chocolate, consumer learning curve & chocolate packaging
- Why partnerships of value are more import to FBC than exclusivity of an origin
- MBA of life vs an MBA degree
- Finding fulfillment in your ever changing roles as your business grows
- Distribution in Japan, a bean to bar specialty chocolate hotspot
- Investors & quarterly reports
Relevant links from the episode:
- B Lab, the non-profit behind certified B Corp businesses
- Bien Cuit Brooklyn Bakery in Fast Company
What chocolate Jael would take to the Cosmos:
- her favorite chocolate chip cookie (which FBC will have plenty of in their future creamery space; you heard it here first!)
- hazelnut dragees
- a robust dark chocolate for "cosmic downtime"