We had the good fortune of connecting with Ella Livingston and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ella, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
The older I’ve gotten, the more I truly understand that happiness isn’t a place that you arrive at and stay. Happiness is a state of mind that comes and goes in waves. But you can choose to be happy despite your circumstances. The things that bring me happiness are sometimes material: like the flowers my husband buys me despite my notorious reputation for not being able to keep plants alive. Sometimes they are moments: like walking outside and basking in the warm sun and cool breeze. Or taking a nap during the daytime with the windows open and the sun lighting up the space. I’ve learned to prioritize my joy and peace as a means to creating a happy life.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Cocoa Asante is a luxury brand that handcrafts chocolates that are almost too pretty to eat. What sets us apart is our story and mission.
I was born in Ghana, the country where the world’s best cocoa is grown. My family has been a part of the cocoa industry for several generations as cocoa farmers back home in Ghana. Cocoa Asante is my way of extending our legacy to include making the final product in addition to cultivating the beans used. The type of chocolates we make are inspired by Nama chocolate. I first tried Nama while living in Tokyo, Japan. I used to travel two hours by train so that I could purchase one box. Before then, I had never tasted chocolate so fresh and rich that it melted in my mouth. Each bite was like an out-of-body experience. In creating Cocoa Asante, my hope is to be able to bring my customers fresh, exquisite chocolate that will allow them to experience what I did all those years ago
Through Cocoa Asante, I want to address issues of equity in local communities. In Ghana, the average cocoa farmer makes about $0.06 for each $1.00 earned in the cocoa industry. Not only is this unfair, but it isn’t sustainable for the communities that are dependent on cocoa. I want to change this narrative by processing the cocoa beans ourselves so that we can invest more of the profits into the cocoa farmers. Cocoa Asante is so much more than just a small business that sells exquisite chocolate. I have huge aspirations for our future and I desire to leave the world a better place than I found it.
Building a business from the ground up has been difficult. I have no formal training in chocolate-making so everything that I have learned has been through YouTube, reading pastry chef blogs, my business partner, and plenty of trial and error. I’ve also continued to work as a teacher while managing motherhood. What helps me overcome these challenges is utilizing my support system and prioritizing my family and health. I cannot pour into my daughter, my students, and my business if I am mentally tapped out. I also expanded my team to include Natasha Guerrero, a talented pastry chef from New York, and Kofi Bonah, my chocolatier in training. I am extremely grateful to have such talented team members and I cannot wait to see our growth as a company!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Chattanooga is a gorgeous city! Over the course of the week, we would spend one morning outdoors hiking one of our many scenic trails. For food, we would grab lunch at Cashews, a delicious vegan spot, and enjoy it at Coolidge Park, right next to Walnut Bridge. Another great spot for lunch would be Lil Mama’s Chicago Style Hoagies. And for dinner one evening we will head to Neutral Ground, an amazing restaurant that does upscale New Orleans and West African Inspired dishes. Sights we would see include Walnut bridge, Incline Railway, Lookout Mountain, and of course The Chattanooga Selfie Museum. We’ll end the week by enjoying an outdoor summer concert at Nightfall.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Definitely my husband, Larue Livingston. After the birth of our daughter, I dealt with severe postpartum depression. Although he couldn’t fully understand what I was going through, he did all he could to lessen my work, helped with our newborn, and provided safe spaces for me. He has shown me how beautiful marriage can be when each person selflessly cares for the other. It almost guarantees that everyone’s needs will inevitably be met. I will forever be grateful for him and the continued inspiration he provides.