A high school trip to Ghana is the inspiration for a business venture years later. Instead of selling raw cocoa ingredients to foreign brokers, Ghana, through Wallace, could take advantage of the untapped market for single-origin, high-quality chocolate. With his knowledge of law (one previous career) and wholesale distribution (in tee shirts, an old family business), and a passion for the product, Wallace cobbles together a plan. Are there numerous setbacks along the way? One bad-tasting sample after another should answer that question. And in a country where 85% of jobs are through the government, do the Ghanaians even know what to make of this strange man and his dreams? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But despite these setbacks, Obroni and the Chocolate Factory is an inspiring story about bringing a new product to market through creativity, drive, and learning to collaborate in spite of cultural differences.— Daniel Goldin
What country makes the best chocolate? Most people would answer "Switzerland," or, if they're discerning, "Belgium" or "France." But, how many cocoa trees grow in Zurich? Lyon? Antwerp? Shouldn't the country known for growing the best cocoa beans be the one that makes the best chocolate? So, captivated by theories of international trade but with precious little knowledge of cocoa or chocolate, Steven Wallace set out to build the Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company in Ghana--a country renowned for its cocoa and where Wallace spent part of his youth--in a quest to produce the world's first export-ready, single-origin chocolate bar. What followed would be the true story of an obroni--white person--from Wisconsin taking on the ultimate entrepreneurial challenge. Written with sensitivity and devastating self-awareness, Obroni and the Chocolate Factory is Steven's chaotic, fascinating, and bemusing journey to create a successful international business that aspired to do a bit of good in the world. This book is at once a penetrating business memoir and a story about imagining globalism done right. Wallace's picaresque journey takes him to Ghana's residence for the head of state, to the Amsterdam offices of a secretive international cocoa conglomerate, and face-to-face with key figures in the sharp-elbowed world of global trade and geopolitics. Along the way he'll be forced to deal with bureaucratic roadblocks, a legacy of colonialism, corporate intrigue, inscrutable international politics, a Bond-esque villain nemesis, and constant uncertainty about whether he'll actually pull it off. This rollicking love letter to both Ghana and the world of business is a rare glimpse into the mind of an unusually literate and articulate entrepreneur.
About the Author
Steven Wallace is the founder and CEO of the Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company, the first company to sustain exports of premium chocolate manufactured entirely in Africa, and credited with producing the world's first single-origin chocolate bar in 1994. Wallace often speaks on economic development, cross-cultural issues, and the challenges of starting a gourmet-food business in Africa. He lives in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.