At just 21, Ben Conrad started Five North Chocolates. He was compelled to start a Fair Trade Chocolate company after a trip to Ecuador where he witnessed the devastating effects of exploitation on farmers and artisans in the developing world.
For his work in the movement, Fairtrade International named him one of the Top 10 Biggest Fair Trade Advocates in the World and #1 in the U.S. Watch the TEDx talk Ben did on fair trade while as student at SUNY Geneseo, and read our chat with him below to find out more about Five North Chocolates!
What drove you to start your business?
I truly believed the chocolate, candy, and snacking industry could do better. I was determined to create a product that would not only taste delicious, but that also supports farmers and has health benefits.
Who are your employees or your artisans?
We source only the highest quality Fair Trade Certified™ cacao from around the world and we produce all of our chocolate snacks with love on Long Island in New York.
Located five degrees north of the equator, West Africa grows more than 2/3 of the world’s cacao. The millions of cacao farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana make our favorite treat possible. Through fair trade, we’re able to ensure that we’re reinvesting in farming communities!
What made you decide to start producing ethically?
While traveling for business in India and on an educational tour through Ecuador, I saw the devastating effects of exploitation on farmers and artisans in the developing world. But I also saw the incredible impact that fair trade, as a business model, can have on producers and their communities.
What impact has your business had on your community?
We’ve seen education levels increase in the farming communities where we source cacao from in Côte d’Ivoire. And we’re also the first brand ever to feature the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce seal on a packaged good -- recently featured in Forbes!
What was the most difficult part of starting and running your business?
Jumping into an industry I knew nothing about (food), was certainly (and still is) a challenge –but a fun one, too! I spent many late nights in our commercial kitchen experimenting with recipes, producing our chocolate snacks as fast as I could, and fulfilling orders for local stores and customers online.
What is your company’s mission?
Our mission is to create guiltless indulgences, empower farmers, and celebrate diversity.