This is a follow up story for Rescue Chocolate. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 5 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m Sarah Feoli, the founder, and owner of Rescue Chocolate. My company produces B Corp-certified dark chocolate bars which are only for humans to enjoy, but all of our profits are donated to various animal rescue organizations.
I sell direct to consumers on my website and at various food festivals. I also sell to a few specialty retail shops. Since my first month of operations (January 2010), I have partnered with more than 700 nonprofits to aid in their lifesaving programs.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
The business has not grown or declined during the past few years. We have reached a natural plateau, and it is a comfortable place to be for our model.
I hope that those businesses that did experience hardships can come back with a vengeance!
I have introduced a couple of new flavors, including a successful “paleo” bar using almond butter. Some flavors which had been put on the backburner have snuck back into the line-up, such as the Pick Me! Pepper bar.
The advertising channel that never disappoints is email marketing. I use Mailchimp. The platform is very good about keeping the best customers engaged. Or else, maybe I just have a very loyal following by this time. But each campaign leads to reliable sales, especially those containing discounts.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
The last year taught us all that is truly important: health, community, and compassion. In the face of a horrific pandemic and heartbreaking social upheaval, I questioned the importance of a trivial little luxury such as a chocolate bar.
After the George Floyd murder and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, I delved into the legacy of cacao and sugar farming, which is not pretty in terms of the exploitation of people of color.
It is heartening to know that Rescue Chocolate ingredients are fair-trade, and that is a pretty good indication of non-exploitative practices.
I was also uplifted to see so many animal shelters with empty cages during the first few months of the lockdown. Single and isolated people came to rely on the companionship of furry friends. I hope the majority of those pandemic pals became permanent family members.
Thanks to the continued support of my customers, I realized that 2 ounces of vegan chocolate are not so trivial after all. It can be a sweet spot of brightness when the rest of the world is dark. Not relying on brick-and-mortar traffic, my business did not suffer during the economic downtown. I hope that those businesses that did experience hardships can come back with a vengeance!
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I hope to continue to partner with new animal rescue organizations on their fundraising programs. I am eagerly tracking the progress of No-Kill 2025 which is an initiative to make all the animal control facilities in America achieve a save rate of at least 90% by the year 2025. Despite incredible gains in recent times, there are still millions of healthy, lovable dogs and cats put to death in this country.
When the no-kill goal is achieved, there will still be a role for Rescue Chocolate to play, advocating for such issues as abolishing puppy mills and getting yard dogs off their chains.
I also want to keep abreast of exciting new food trends and new ingredients for my chocolate bars, to keep my products fresh and attractive for all of us who rely on our daily chocolate fix.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
These books aren’t specifically business-oriented. But somehow they put me in a frame of mind that makes everything seem more possible:
Breath (by James Nestor), because I love breathwork and breathing meditations. The book delved into the science and the history behind various techniques. It was fascinating, scientific, and even more encouraging to continue meditating every day. I get a clearer mind and better perspective when doing so.
Untamed (by Glennon Doyle) is a great reminder to live your life as fully and beautifully as possible, told in a unique voice.
The Signature of All Things (by Elizabeth Gilbert), a masterful and wide-ranging tale following one character through her whole life, with interesting tidbits of science woven in.
Hunt Gather Parent (by Michaeleen Doucleff), which is about how various cultures pass wisdom down to new generations. In contrast, the current American model makes it seem like all learning is starting from scratch.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
This may go against everything people are taught in business school, but what has worked for me has been an aversion to risk-taking. Of course, there was a risk in starting the company: outlying money with no guarantee of a return. But since proving the concept, I have been conservative. My forays into non-chocolate products (energy bars, dog-themed artwork, tee-shirts, and tote bags with the company logo) reinforced the lesson that I should just stick with a sure thing: chocolate! This strategy probably will not turn Rescue Chocolate into a unicorn, but it will ensure that the company doesn’t fall into the bankruptcy hole where the majority of new enterprises do unfortunately tumble.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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