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Made in the Ozarks: Askinosie Chocolate LLC

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After a career as a criminal defense lawyer, Shawn Askinosie made the surprising shift to chocolatier.

The first bar he ever made was a single-origin dark chocolate with cocoa beans from Del Tambo, Ecuador. Today, the Commercial Street shop produces roughly 40 metric tons of chocolate annually.

With a passion for quality and a heart for fair wages for cocoa bean farmers, Askinosie has launched a small chocolate shop in the Midwest to widespread acclaim.

SBJ: How is your business structured and what are the core products?
Askinosie: We are a small-batch, bean-to-bar chocolate company sourcing all of our cocoa beans directly from farmers and sharing profits with them.

SBJ: What are the challenges to making chocolate in the Ozarks?
Askinosie: Learning how to make chocolate from the bean and manage cash flow without a big line of credit.

SBJ: What was your driving factor to start this business?
Askinosie: Something I’ve said for years is, “It’s not about the chocolate; it’s about the chocolate.” This means that our school lunch program providing a meal for nearly 1,000 students per day in the Philippines or taking local students to Tanzania is not about chocolate. It’s about much more than that. On the other hand, it is completely and totally about the chocolate. We’re laser focused on making the best-tasting, direct-trade chocolate in the world.

SBJ: Were you inspired by another business or entrepreneur?
Askinosie: Yes, Jack Stack. Jack is the father of open-book management and has inspired me for decades. So while he did not directly inspire me to start the business, he did inspire a part of our business model that relates to open books and farmers. I was also inspired by the business model of Assumption Abbey, a Trappist monastery near Ava. They use the Rule of Benedict as a governing management document, and the monks inspire me to this day.

SBJ: What was the moment you decided to do this business?
Askinosie: I knew that I would start a company when I was in the Amazon in 2005 studying how farmers influence the flavor of chocolate by how they harvest beans.


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