It’s an experience walking into the ChocoSol store, at 1131 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto. Filled with a large variety of chocolate on display, enticing aromas, bright happy imagery, and smiling employees — wholly contributing to the feeling of community and warmth.
Michael Sacco, founder of ChocoSol and talented storyteller has created the ultimate masterpiece with ChocoSol — a whole food, stone ground chocolate production facility. The facility also houses a learning center and store.
Planting the seed
The journey all began in the Fall of 2003, when Michael was invited by a friends’ mother — a village homeopath in San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca — to help roast cacao so that they could make her great-great-grandmother’s chocolate recipe for Christmas. A year after, he was still making chocolate.
“A year later I was still making chocolate, but I didn’t know why. And then I finally realized why: instead of depending on government grants, instead of depending on my own savings — as a stonemason or a student loan or whatever I was using. I could sell chocolate and make a dignified living and I could use the chocolate as a vehicle to celebrate the sustainable technology.”
Growing made easy
ChocoSol specializes in artisanal chocolate. They are made using organic, forest garden, shade-grown cacao, sourced directly from Indigenous communities in Southern Mexico. They were in the midst of a growth stage and were seeking funds to support cacao procurement and equipment purchases to further their production.
“Lending Loop was there for us at the right time, at the right rate, with the right Idea.”
In March 2016, ChocoSol’s loan was fully funded on the Lending Loop Marketplace. They are currently using the funds to fulfill their original vision for the future of the company.
“Lending Loop was very straight forward, the staff was fantastic to work with. We found the turnaround from getting the paperwork in, to getting it all finalized and getting the project funded was very quick, very painless and very opportune.”
Finding a commonality
One aspect that Michael — a passionate believer in the community — finds fascinating is the commonality between Lending Loop’s P2P lending model and the horizontal trade model that ChocoSol currently utilizes for cacao acquisition.
“On a deeper level, it’s nice to see a resonance for us between our direct trade or horizontal trade model working with producers, resonating working with Lending Loop’s peer-to-peer lending approach that is designed to connect individual lenders to projects that they value and esteem. And breaking down that disconnect to create more of an ethical, moral connection between how your money is invested and the kinds of returns you get, both financially and socially.”
A boost for business and morale
Michael appreciates Lending Loop’s confidence in ChocoSol. “You know it was nice to see that you guys gave us that ‘A’ rating for the credit rating, you did your due diligence. Like, ‘hey these guys have good credit’. And that actually raises our profile.”
He also declared that the rating has opened up a whole new world of options and opportunities for ChocoSol.
The road ahead
Three years from now, Michael hopes to create ChocoSol’s version of a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory in Toronto. He believes it will cost around $1.5 Million and hopes to go back to Lending Loop for funding part of the operation.
“We’re looking at different options and things like that, but five hundred thousand dollars from Lending Loop at six percent doesn’t sound so bad.”
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