INTERVIEW: ASKANYA HAITIAN CHOCOLATE FOUNDER
We sat down with Corinne Joachim Sanon Symietz who founded Haiti’s first and only premier bean-to-bar chocolate company, Les Chocolateries Askanya. Corinne speaks about her road to getting in to the chocolate business, what makes Askanya unique, and her package design inspiration for current and future chocolate bars!
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?
Although I was born in the U.S., I grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti with my immediate family. Growing up in Haiti, I was always aware of the poverty around me, that my parents had to help the housekeeping staff with medical bills or education fees for their children or grandchildren. Already as a teenager – I told myself – “when I grow up, I will not only do charities, I will create jobs.” After high school, I went to college in the U.S where I attended the University of Michigan and received a Bachelors in Industrial Engineering. Then, I went on to University of Pennsylvania, the Wharton School of Business, to obtain my MBA as I felt that these skills would help me later on when I create my business. My education, my work experience and my readings, my travels etc. were, to me, pieces of the puzzle toward my entrepreneurial goals. By the time I turned 30, I decided that it was time to start my business, Les Chocolateries Askanya
54KIBO: TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE PROCESS OF CREATING ASKANYA AND THE CHOCOLATES?
ASKANYA: We wanted to provide local farmers an outlet to sell their crops. 60% of Haitian population are subsistence farmers who struggle to sell their extra fruits and vegetables. While researching the different crops, we realized that Haitian cacao was used by high-end chocolatiers like Bonnat, and Valrhona in France to create their chocolate bars and bonbons. We decided to create a gourmet finished product at origin, in Haiti, using local ingredients like cacao and sugar with no preservatives.
54KIBO: WHAT INSPIRED THE DESIGNS THAT YOU USE ON YOUR PACKAGING? NEXT FOR 2020?
ASKANYA: We wanted to showcase elements of Haiti’s vibrant and colorful fauna and flora on your packages. Hence, Paradis is a Bird of Paradise Flower. Wanga Nègès presents the wings of a Haitian Hummingbird. Its name in Haitian Creole is also Wanga Nègès. For our Perle Rare bar, we have a Haitian conch with a pink perle an extremely rare sight – only 1 of every 20,000 conch has a perle. For upcoming year we will introduce new flavors, Bouquet Vert–Lime Chocolate Bar and also have some private collaborations.
54KIBO: WHAT DOES THE 54KIBO BRAND MEAN TO YOU?
ASKANYA: I like to immerse myself in new cultures and lifestyles. For example I recently travelled to Petra, Jordan and Israel. By showcasing what Africa does best, 54kibo helps me explore different African countries through design. It creates an opportunity to seamlessly source beautifully crafted wares done in Africa. My favorite is Ite Chair–Alaafia Rocker– bold colors and so comfortable.
Read more about Corinne's recommendations for things to do in Haiti.