My guest today is Shawn Askinosie, the founder and CEO of Askinosie Chocolate and author of the number one Amazon best selling book, Meaningful Work: The Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul.
For Shawn Askinosie, picking a favorite kind of chocolate is like asking someone to pick a favorite child. His company, Askinosie Chocolate, sells 17 different chocolate bars, but when asked to pick just one he is at a complete loss.
“[I]t seems like the last place that I have been is my favorite…the people mean so much to me it’s hard to separate the people from the chocolate. And the hard work that they provide to make these beans what they are. So it’s hard. It’s hard for me.”
Shawn most recently returned from Tanzania, where he personally met with the chocolate farmers that produce the cocoa beans used in his factory. This is unusual in the chocolate world—larger companies (or “Big Cocoa” as Shawn refers to them) buy almost exclusively through a broker, resulting in local farmers receiving as little as $1 a day for their crops. Shawn knew that he needed a completely different business model: not to make a bigger profit, but a bigger impact. And he was willing to disrupt the status quo to do it.
“This is not about chocolate. It's about humanity. It's about shared humanity, but on the other hand, it's absolutely about chocolate.”
Caring about the rights of others is encoded in Shawn’s DNA. In his life “BC” (before chocolate), he was a high-profile defense attorney in Springfield, Missouri, a vocation he loved and pursued passionately for years. When it became apparent that the high-stress lifestyle was going to literally kill him, Shawn began searching for something, anything, that he could attack with the same passion and purpose that he poured into his law practice. After five years of praying daily that God would give him something different to do, he finally heard an answer: make chocolate from scratch, starting at the source.
“[T]his was a faint whisper in my head, and often we sort of all have those, but the question is whether or not we recognize them or hear them for what they really are, and I just happen to be lucky that day, and be in the right place at the right time to hear it…I’ve never been one to not act, and so all through my life I’ve been one of those kind of people that will take risks, and I’m ready for the next adventure, and I don’t have that kind of fear. I have a lot of other fear, but not that.”
Despite not knowing anything about chocolate production, Shawn took the leap—and I’m certainly glad he did. Join us as we discuss his transition from lawyer to chocolatier, the siren song of notoriety, Chocolate University, and how disrupting his life has allowed Shawn to glimpse the divine.
Takeaways from this episode:
- Build the kind of business you want to build, and stay true to your vision. Conviction is key.
- Even something we love doing can become something that weighs on us. Sometimes we need a new passion, and we may not find it right away.
- It took Shawn over a year to transition from lawyer to chocolatier. Sometimes the “jump” from one learning curve to another can take a while. Have patience with your own journey.
- By keeping his business small, Shawn still has time to participate in activities that are important to him, like personally visiting the cocoa farmers or taking a group of high schoolers to Tanzania.
- If you haven’t already, try some Askinosie Chocolate! It’s worth it.
Links from this Episode:
- Meaningful Work: The Quest To Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul by Shawn and Lawren Askinosie
- Askinosie Chocolate
- About Shawn
- Askinosie Chocolate – Direct Trade Tenets
- Intelligentsia Coffee
- Chocolate University
- Disrupt Yourself Podcast – Episode 69: Peter Bregman
- Askinosie Chocolate – Buy some chocolate!
- Build an A-Team: Play to Their Strengths and Lead Them Up the Learning Curve by Whitney Johnson
- Download a free chapter from Build an A-Team