Social development in underdeveloped countries was her passion so she created a venture that would be of assistance to people in need. When Diana Lovett was in her late teens and early twenties, she spent time in Africa with several organizations that provided medical care and education to the people there. It was then that she told herself, “I’m going to build something to help.”
Dianna Lovett set out to create a company that could aid a small region in becoming sustainable. Her idea was to find a commodity grown by local people that she could use in a product and she thought of cocoa. Traveling the world, she hit upon a group of farmers in the Dominican Republic who were growing wonderful cocoa plants and harvesting the beans. “I knew I could develop a transparent supply chain so I formed a partnership with the farmers and the local co-op.”
Diana’s plan was to scale right away which meant she needed funding. She met with Whole Foods who gave her their support with the promise of orders. She then found seed capital and did her research on creating her product – hot chocolate, cake, cookie and muffin mixes made from the delicious cocoa from the Dominican Republic farmers. “I was pregnant at the time and my husband was incredibly supportive, he told me he knew I could make it happen.” Her fist pitch was given to a friend in finance, “I told him to be mean and ask hard questions and he did. But it prepared me for the real world of getting investors.”
Instrumental to her venture was a friend of Diana’s who had a food product. She referred her to lawyers who specialized in taking food products to market. “This same friend referred us to a food company and packer. I call this friend my North star because she had helped my process every step of the way.” It was March of 2012 and Whole Foods was prepared to take delivery of her products that September. So Diana’s life consisted of investor meetings, recipe testing and trade shows.
What makes her product so great? “We use the highest quality all natural real ingredients and you can tell when you taste them.” Her hot chocolate and cake mixes were initially launched in 65 Whole Foods stores, “Our goal was always to scale quickly not to have a slow ramp up.”
Diana is very committed to her partnership with the farmers in the DR, “We’ve built wells in several local villages and rehabbed a school. Seeing the progress there is a great feeling and it’s incredibly gratifying to contribute to sustainable living.” This was her goal from the beginning. Cisse Trading now has 3 full time employees and an advisory board of 8 people. “I’ve surrounded myself with people who have experience and I’m not afraid to ask for help.”
Creating a venture with socially responsible business values around a delicious product was what Diana had set out to do. Customers can even reach out to the farmers of the cocoa via email by scanning the QR code on each box of Cisse Trading mix
What does she have to say now that Cisse Trading is in 550 stores nationwide, “It always takes longer and costs more, but I feel really proud about what I’ve accomplished. But with a young child, I’m still getting the hang of finding the right balance between work and home.” I’m sure this mom will have no problem figuring that out.
Define your values and create a venture around them.