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Askinosie Chocolate Chief Operating Officer John Taylor talks about the process behind creating a new origin line.
SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON
Askinosie Chocolate Chief Operating Officer John Taylor talks about the process behind creating a new origin line.

COO: Askinosie Chocolate ‘comfortable’ with 4 origin bars

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Askinosie Chocolate LLC has shifted into a “comfortable number” of origin bars after the recent release of its fourth, said company Chief Operating Officer John Taylor. Origin bars refer to the area where the cocoa beans are sourced.

Taylor — who’s held the job for a year after working as executive director of Drury University’s Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship — said the company’s mission since it was founded in 2006 by Shawn Askinosie was to have three to four origins.

“You can’t go above five,” said Taylor, speaking this morning for Springfield Business Journal’s 12 People live interview series. “Three to four is the number that has been settled on at this point as a comfortable number.

“It provides diversity of products but it also provides for management time.”

Askinosie Chocolate last week released its Amazonia chocolate bar in partnership with a female-led farm in Zamora, Ecuador, within the Amazon rainforest.

Taylor said now that the company has reached its goal of four origins, a fifth may be a stretch.

“Getting an origin, that is a little bit of detective work, a lot of gut, a lot of instinct, a lot of who do you know, a lot of who could you know, a lot of travel, a lot of stress,” he said. “The decision to go with the fifth is not just the decision to add a line.

“It is the decision to invest a ridiculous amount of time and stress.”

Change to COO
In his first year with Askinosie Chocolate, Taylor said he’s learned not just about the chocolate-making business, but about what it means to serve as a COO.

Taylor has searched for books on the topic, but came up empty. Largely, he said, it’s anecdotal depending on the workplace, but some lessons apply everywhere.

While Shawn Askinosie was finalizing the details on the Amazonia bar, for instance, Taylor was facilitating the day-to-day operations of the company’s Commercial Street factory.

“My role is to allow those projects to be going on without a lot of distraction,” Taylor said, noting he must “anticipate problems before they become problems.”

At Askinosie Chocolate, Taylor’s job as COO includes finance work, taking care of factory problems and human relations.

Taylor is the man on the ground in Springfield when Askinosie is traveling globally to connect with the company’s farmer-partners. In fact, Taylor’s role doesn’t include travel.

“There’s enough of an adventure at the factory,” Taylor said.

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