Corinne Joachim-Sanon, a 29-year-old University of Michigan MBA graduate alumna, was enjoying the fruits of her hard work, living and working in New York City as an industrial engineer, when she kept having nagging thoughts. Many of the goals she has written down for herself as a 16-year-old — education, travel, fluency in several languages and success — had been realized.
And yet, her native country of Haiti was calling her back. After 10 years of working as an engineer and a business consultant, Joachim-Sanon determined it was time to return to Haiti. After researching the country’s cacao heritage and the art of chocolate making, she and her husband, Andreas Symietz, invested their life savings to start a chocolate factory, Les Chocolateries Askanya, in rural Haiti.
The two committed to producing a premium bean-to-bar chocolate that was “Grown in Haiti, Made in Haiti, Enjoyed Everywhere,” while helping to create jobs and wealth among the cocoa farming community.
In “The Sweet Side of Engineering,” a documentary series filmed in Haiti and produced by the University of Michigan, Joachim-Sanon shows the audience what it’s like to purchase cacao and transform it into chocolate in Haiti, a country plagued by a lack of infrastructure and a transparent business climate.
Founded in 2015, Les Chocolateries Askanya prides itself on offering delicious, high-quality chocolate made with Haitian cacao, while creating wealth for employees, partners and Haitian farmers. In the film, Joachim-Sanon says the company uses about $100,000 of cacao annually, working with about 2,000 farmers, a number that could grow to 5,000.
Locally grown Haitian cacao and natural ingredients are used to produce the chocolate bars at the colorful chocolate factory in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. Created in Milk, Dark and Rapadou (unrefined Haitian whole cane sugar) varieties, all chocolates are available in a regular 2-oz. bar, half-bar and the bite-size bar, as well as in seasonal gift-sets. The chocolates are also sold online and in most major grocery stores and gift shops in Haiti. They are also available in the United States at these locations:
• Grandchamps Kitchen – Brooklyn, N.Y.
• Kafe Louverture – Brooklyn, N.Y.
• The Chocolate House – Washington, D.C.
• Elisha C - Los Angeles, Calif.
• Le District - New York City, N.Y.
• Fritai Nola - New Orleans, La.
• Hannah’s Bretzel – Chicago, Ill.
• A Taste of Distinction – Pomona, N.Y.