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 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.
This is a memoir of Steven Wallace’s business life while doing business in Ghana. Ghana and Cote d’Lvoire are the two biggest cocoa growers. Coco grows on trees in tropical areas primarily West Africa. Wallace is an attorney who decided to make a gourmet chocolate bar and hot chocolate drink after his family business closed. He had been an exchange student to Ghana when he was in high school. He built the Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company in Ghana. Wallace lives in Wisconsin; now that’s a long commute.
The book is well written and is written in a relaxed style as if the two of us were just sitting and talking about business experiences. Wallace explains the problems of doing business in West Africa from culture, language to infrastructure. I found the section about the World Bank forcing Ghana’s government to sell off its state owned business to obtain a loan and that effect on the chocolate business most interesting. I found the global business information captivating. I also found the section about how to determine the quality of chocolate fascinating. After reading this book I wanted to go out and try a Obroni chocolate bar.
The book was almost seven hours. Tom Parks did an excellent job narrating the book. Tom Parks got his start narrating audiobooks thirty years ago narrating for the Kansas Audio Reader Network. He has been nominated for an Audie. I have listened to Parks over the years and have enjoyed his pleasant voice and reading style.
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