Emma Bailie – That Chocolate
Poverty and chocolate not two things you would normally associate with each other, with one being a chronic global disease and the other being a luxury item. But in the case of That Chocolate, they come together for the greater good, thanks to great vision from founder Emma Bailie.
After spending time volunteering in the Philippines and seeing first hand the devastation caused by natural disasters which not only destroys homes but leads to a cycle of poverty, hunger and addiction. Emma decided she wanted to do something to help and not just in a time of crisis, which is why she has developed a business model that uses chocolate to fund food relief in the Philippines and removes the guilt from eating the world’s favourite food.
We chatted with Emma about how her business came to fruition and how YOU can be part of stopping world hunger just by eating a bar of chocolate.
Because they are really, really hungry, to get rid of the hunger pains they sniff glue, then they end up on the street. That all starts just by being hungry.
The Westies: What was your inspiration for starting That Chocolate?
Emma: I volunteered in the Philippines, just after super typhoon Haiyan happened. It was nothing to do with food, I was over there as a media officer for a grassroots organisation. When I went over there, I was really touched by what was going on and I saw what an impact food relief had on the kids there. I saw kids eating out of bins, and a lot of kids addicted to [sniffing] glue and living on the street, it’s horrible. Because they are really, really hungry, to get rid of the hunger pains they sniff glue. Then they get addicted to glue, and then they end up on the street, because that’s how they are able to have access to the drug. That all starts just by being hungry.
I was there for about three and a half months. The experience really got under my skin, I was just constantly thinking about a way that I could have a better impact. The way that those programs work, the grassroots organisations are going to villages that have loads of kids that are suffering from malnutrition. Then they set up and they feed them a nourishing meal every day, they weigh them and they try to get them to a healthier weight, but that only happens if there is enough money to keep the program running. What was constantly happening is the money would run out after eight or twelve weeks, and they would have to leave those villages, and just wait for more funding to come.
I wanted a more consistent way to get money to them. I thought, I’d love to create my own food product. I thought, “everybody loves chocolate, If I’m going to create a product that’s going to make a serious impact, I should pick one that everybody loves.”
The Westies: What made you want volunteer in the first place?
Emma: I was at a huge cross-road in my life, it is so cliché, but I had just broken up with someone. I was just feeling too sorry for myself, and I thought, “You know what, get some perspective, and go and use your skills to do something good, help people with actual problems.” So, rather than getting a new haircut, I went volunteering in the Philippines.
Talk about putting things in perspective. Of course, anyone is going to say that, but it really genuinely did do that for me. It was just amazing. When I look at what’s happened as the result of purely just going there, because I was at a point in my life where I thought “I don’t know what else I can do right now”. I’m so grateful for that breakup now, let me tell you.
The gut is being called the “second brain”, because research is showing that there’s a link between depression and anxiety and other mental health issues, and a dodgy gut.
The Westies: I’m sure that a lot of people have these kind of experiences, they come back from somewhere, and they think “I really would like to do something”, but then it doesn’t eventuate. What has motivated you to actually make That Chocolate happen?
Emma: Years before I went to the Phillipines, I travelled through Africa. I was in Africa for about eight months, about four and a half months of that was camping and moving through Africa. Seeing kids suffering, kids living in poverty, people living in poverty, and me just thinking, “Oh, my God, this will put my life in perspective. When I get back to normality, I will never going to take anything for granted again.” And I reckon it was about three weeks before I was whinging about the most mundane shit, and just first-world problems.
I think this time, it had an even greater impact on me, because I was living in the community, instead of just passing through. I remember one night I wrote a list titled “Things I will never take for granted again”. And it was things like running water, privacy, being able to run, because I couldn’t go running in an area that wasn’t necessarily safe. Just really simple things – like food that I knew won’t make me sick. I made that list, and that was my way of saying to myself, “Don’t do the same thing you did last time.” Don’t go back to “normality”, and then start whinging about traffic, or needing petrol because that’s not who I want to be. That mindset, and because it was my second time around, that’s why I went through with it this time. And then just that whole thing that we all want, which is to live a life of purpose, like just to feel like you’re doing something significant. I’ve had that desire for years, and haven’t known how to properly realise it. And I see this is the way of doing that.
The Westies: Did you have any experience in the food industry or making chocolate?
Emma: No, I just started teaching myself how to make chocolate, it was trial and error, and a lot of really terrible recipes. But the cool thing is people in the chocolate world are super passionate. If I reached out to someone in America, or in Manchester, they would come back with so much information, and so much help for me.
I just constantly taught myself everything I could, and asked other people’s advice. Then, maybe about six months in, two things happened. I’ve finally made a recipe that made me go, “Oh, that’s really, really good!” And I struck up a deal with a probiotics innovator in the States, who, even though my business is much smaller than anything they’ve ever worked with before, they agreed to work with me. Those two things happened around the same time. When that happened, I thought, this is going to be something.
The Westies: What did striking a deal with that mean to you?
Emma: It means that I’m one of the first in Australia and New Zealand that is using a probiotic strain in a food item, that genuinely makes its way into the human stomach.
Right now, we’re learning loads about the importance of gut-health, not just for immunity, and physical health but also mental health – the gut is being called the “second brain”, because research is showing that there’s a link between depression and anxiety and other mental health issues, and a dodgy gut.
The guys in the States have made a special strain that is spore-forming, and that means that it is shelf-stable for two years, and it not only survives food manufacturing, but it survives the levels of PH that we have in our stomachs. It has the best chance of actually making an impact on our health. For a company as innovative as that, to say that they would be keen for me to be the first to try it in my chocolate, was amazing.
I just think that all kids deserve the same chance in life, and unfortunately there are so many areas across the world where kids are facing horrific situations, not just hunger. But hunger is a very simple one that we can actually help with.
The Westies: You’ve not only developed a delicious and nutritious chocolate bar you will be using a percentage of the sales to support starving kids in the Philippines. Why give part of your proceeds away?
Emma: The really sad thing about global poverty is that it doesn’t take that much to help. It’s 20 pesos to feed a child a really great meal. 20 pesos is about 65 cents.
The big issue is the disconnect between us and them and then also all of the red-tape and the admin and corruption. So much gets sucked up in that. The organisation that I work with is staffed by volunteers, they’re dieticians and nutrition students and experts, who’ve all gone volunteering to Philippines. There are no staff to pay for these programs, so I know that every single cent that they get goes straight to the kids. Every single bar of That Chocolate sold is a meal for a kid. Monthly, the money from each unit sold will go straight to the Philippines, and straight into those programs. Instead of it being eight weeks funding here, twelve weeks funding there, it will be constant.
The Westies: You now need some help to get to the next phase in your business and are running a Kickstarter campaign. Can you tell me about what Kickstarter is and how people can help?
Emma: Kickstarter is a way for everyday people to invest in a business idea. Instead of getting equity in the company in return for their investment, they get product. It is, very simply, asking the public to pre-order my product. If enough people like the idea and pre-order the product, then having that money upfront is what I need to be able to produce the product. Essentially it’s not a donation, it’s an investment. It’s a way for everyday people to help someone ordinary bring a creative idea into life.
The Westies: Why Kickstarter? Why put it in other people’s hands, instead of going to the bank?
Emma: I think the reason I chose to do that, is because the only way that this is going to work, is if I create a movement, not just a brand. I think that the way to build a genuine community and get them excited about the whole social enterprise element and what we’re trying to achieve, is to get them involved from the beginning and have them be responsible for the success of being able to launch in the first place. Hopefully that means people really feel a part of this movement from the very beginning, and then they will be a really strong part of helping it grow, as well. Whereas the bank doesn’t care, they only care if I can make my repayments back.
I can confidently say (after eating two bars in my car after the interview) that, That Chocolate is delicious and with the added bonus of nutrition and knowing that my money is going to help feed kids in the Philippines, I’ve already placed my pre order on Kickstarter and you can do the same by clicking here.
Interview: Katrina James
Photos: Katrina James