Meet the Founder: Patricia Tsai of ChocoVivo
We eat whole fruits and vegetables, so why don’t we eat whole bean chocolate? That’s the question that inspired Patricia Tsai to launch her own line of carefully crafted bean-to-bar chocolate. Made with stone-ground cacao nibs and whole spices, ChocoVivo proves Patricia’s mantra: Simple is better.
After graduating from Wharton and earning her CPA, Patricia started to rethink her career path. Chocolate was her passion, and she wanted to know more about how it was made. Patricia learned that we’ve strayed from the methods used by Mayans and Aztecs over 2,000 years ago. She decided to bring chocolate back to its roots. Today, her Culver City-based company is revolutionizing the industry. We’re excited to launch ChocoVivo exclusively at Bristol Farms Manhattan Beach.
01Why did you start ChocoVivo?
After college, I moved on to my next stage of life – working behind a computer and crunching numbers as a CPA. I found myself lying in bed, looking up at the ceiling, and thinking, “Wow, my job is soulless.” After some reflection, I discovered that I was passionate about people and food. I didn’t want to become a chef, so I found a different path.
02What obstacles did you face along the way?
There were tons of obstacles along the way, but the main obstacle was establishing a supply chain. I wanted to find a model that went from the farmer to the manufacturer, but I had no experience in supply chain management or the food industry. Ultimately, I pulled it off, and it was the most rewarding achievement of my professional career. That was instrumental in ChocoVivo’s evolution.
Cacao is often grown on a large scale, sprayed heavily, and sold through distributors. Instead, I wanted to purchase the pure material directly. It wasn’t easy, but I eventually found an amazing grower in Vicente Gutierrez. Vicente’s path was similar to mine – he was an engineer who jumped on the opportunity to restore an abandoned cacao farm. Three decades later, the Jesús Maria Farm is a thriving landscape for organic cacao and other natural wonders. Vicente also helped to establish the first women’s cacao co-op in the region to support female farmers. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.
Cacao beans are only grown 20 degrees north and south of the equator and that’s something we take for granted here in California. It’s easy for us to grow tomatoes, carrots, apples, and other incredible produce. Chocolate is another story.
03What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Some people are lucky enough to hit the jackpot early and go down an easier road. If you’re not one of the fortunate few, don’t let that stop you from chasing your dream. There will be times when you feel like giving up, but your passion will fuel you to persevere. It’s not easy, but I always tell people that it takes the mind, body, and soul to see your vision through.
04 What’s on the horizon for ChocoVivo?
We are working on a unisex skincare line using food-grade cacao butter from the farm. Self-care is more important than ever right now, so we’re bringing everyone the ultimate chocolate spa experience at home. Look out for our DIY Cacao Ceremony Kits, Cacao Spa Kits, and Hot Chocolate Kits!
We are also looking to expand our chocolate bar line. I can’t go into details yet, but we’re teaming up with a new sourcing partner to take ChocoVivo to the next level.
05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
I’m inspired by the history of chocolate and the way it brings people together. It’s our common language.
I don’t look at what I do as work. As an Asian-American, Ivy League grad from Oklahoma, I never thought that I’d move to SoCal and start a bean-to-bar chocolate company. But, here I am, realizing my dream in partnership with a cacao grower in the Yucatán.
ChocoVivo started as an idea and it grew into a passion. That passion drives me to keep going and fuels my fire, even when it flickers momentarily.
Like everyone else, I love chocolate. What makes me different from others is that I truly live chocolate. Hence our name: ChocoVivo is Spanish for “I live chocolate.”