Obroni and the Chocolate Factory: An Unlikely Story of Globalization and Ghana's First Gourmet Chocolate Bar
By Steven Wallace
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Skyhorse (November 21, 2017)
What country makes the best chocolate? Most people would answer "Switzerland," or, if they're discerning, "Belgium" or "France." But, how many cocoa trees grow in Zurich? Lyon? Antwerp? Shouldn't the country known for growing the best cocoa beans be the one that makes the best chocolate? So, captivated by theories of international trade but with precious little knowledge of cocoa or chocolate, Steven Wallace set out to build the Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company in Ghana—a country renowned for its cocoa and where Wallace spent part of his youth—in a quest to produce the world's first export-ready, single-origin chocolate bar. What followed would be the true story of an obroni—white person—from Wisconsin taking on the ultimate entrepreneurial challenge.
Written with sensitivity and devastating self-awareness, Obroni and the Chocolate Factory is Steven's chaotic, fascinating, and bemusing journey to create a successful international business that aspired to do a bit of good in the world. This book is at once a penetrating business memoir and a story about imagining globalism done right. Wallace's picaresque journey takes him to Ghana's residence for the head of state, to the Amsterdam offices of a secretive international cocoa conglomerate, and face-to-face with key figures in the sharp-elbowed world of global trade and geopolitics. Along the way he'll be forced to deal with bureaucratic roadblocks, a legacy of colonialism, corporate intrigue, inscrutable international politics, a Bond-esque villain nemesis, and constant uncertainty about whether he'll actually pull it off. This rollicking love letter to both Ghana and the world of business is a rare glimpse into the mind of an unusually literate and articulate entrepreneur.
"A solid primer on how to build a business with all the added obstacles of working in a developing nation, this story of the Omanhene Coco Bean Company contains plenty of bitter along with the sweet."
"Frequently funny and always informative."
—John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
"We live in an interconnected world where every business--from your neighborhood coffee house to a multinational aircraft manufacturer--is affected by global trade. Wallace makes the case that a New Globalism, based on seeking true comparative advantage, can lead to wealth generation and sustainable employment for everyone. The Omanhene story teaches us that, rather than be scared by globalization, we should embrace it and benefit from it. This is an entrepreneurial story that needs to be told--and it's delicious, too."
—Peter M. Robinson, President and CEO, United States Council for International Business.
"Steve Wallace's highly personalized obroni story begins with a teenage experience in West Africa that forged bonds strong enough to overcome excessive red tape, a secretive and opaque commodities market, and even dangerous intrigue. This captivating account will both inspire young social marketeer entrepreneurs and reveal a fascinating 'public-private' model for creating prosperity in the developing world."
-J. Brian Atwood, former administrator of USAID
Amazon Readers Reviews
Wallace is a master storyteller
Steve Wallace writing is concise, crisp, readable, and informative. He has a gift for storytelling. I finished his journey from high school exchange student to chocolate manufacturer wanting more. ... It is a testament to his entrepreneurial spirit that he was able to succeed despite so many obstacles, but he took it all in stride with his Midwestern sense of humor and humility. Hard to categorize, since it is full of history, personal memoirs, business advice, and homespun philosophy of what is important in life. I enjoyed it immensely.
A laugh-out-loud story
I have lived and traveled in the third world and appreciated his ability to battle the bureaucracy with cultural sensitivity. But his wry treatment of his experience had me laughing out loud in every chapter. I am a fussy reader and only finish about half the books I start. This entrepreneurial tale was definitely riveting from start to finish.