Chocolate, Earthquakes, and the value of Mentorship

Brenna Kutch

About the Author

“The months after the earthquake were the most challenging times my business and I have ever encountered. We were unable to enter our workspace for week, causing us to lose many supplies. Even after we were ready to start production again, most of our clients were no longer interested in buying our products since they were affected as well.”

Rocio is the founder of Cheelzi, a chocolate company in Mexico City. Starting the business a decade ago just out of college was not easy for her; as a young college graduate she lacked confidence in herself, and even her family doubted her ability to be successful and support herself. But, her passion towards cacao culture in Mexico and commitment to running a business prevailed. Chocolate is in high demand in Mexico, and Rocio sees her business as a symbiotic relationship with the local community—she works with fair-trade farmers from Tabasco and Chiapas, and promotes Mexico’s cultural roots from pre-hispanic times.

Despite her tough beginning, Rocio says the months following the earthquake were her most difficult times due to losing product and clients. As her profits declined week after week, so did the motivation and morale of her staff. “For months we had no sales, and there were many days in which I thought that after 10 years of work Cheelzi may no longer be able to recover.”

Fortunately, a colleague and previous mentor referred her to MicroMentor, and she began attending workshops and learning skills to help get her business on track. Rocio and her staff began regaining their motivation and confidence, which led them to enter a contest to feature local products at a Mexican hotel chain. Despite hundreds of other entries, the Cheelzi team won! This provided them the boost of confidence, promotion, and income that they needed to get the small business back on track in a matter of weeks.

Thanks to ReActiva (MicroMentor’s disaster recovery program for small businesses impacted by the September 2017 earthquakes), MicroMentor workshops, and advice from individual mentors, Rocio and the Cheelzi business have learned valuable entrepreneur skills, are more resilient in the face of future hardships, and can once again continue their role in the cacao community.