During my week in Managua I got over to a place near the Peace Corps office that I have been meaning to hit up: The Chocolate Momotombo factory and café. Chocolate Momotombo is one of the various artisan chocolate companies in Nicaragua, and in my opinion they have set themselves apart from the rest. I also believe that they are an exemplary example of Nicaraguan value-added production, which I stump so strongly on this blog.
Chocolate Momotombo sources all of its cacao domestically, and does all of its processing at the small factory in Managua. They have all sorts of flavors, all of which utilizing local ingredients, such as coffee, cashew, sesame, flax seed, and chia seed.
Many Nicaraguan chocolates that I have tried come out gritty, not smooth and glossy like the chocolate we consume in the United States. The barista/chocolatier at Momotombo told me this is due to Momotombo using a device called a tempering machine during the production process. This machine allows them to extract a liquor from the pure cacao instead of just utilizing ground cacao. The machine regulates the temperature of the liquor and mixes it so that it maintains the correct consistency and texture until it is ready to be poured into a mold and cooled. I doubt that other popular chocolatiers, such as El Castillo, use this machine.
I love the example of Chocolate Momotombo for Nicaraguan value-added production because the entire value chain is domestic. The primary good is grown in Nicaragua. The sugar is probably local as well. The production takes place in Managua, benefiting Nicaraguan laborers. If the boxes and bags they use for the product are local, even better. Sales and distribution is primarily Nicaraguan, and they may even be exporting abroad, which would just serve to increase sales and benefit everyone along the value chain. They do use Facebook for advertising, and of course that is an American firm, but in a globalized world economy you would not expect completely domesticating your entire business operations to be the most optimal strategy. However, I am glad that the majority of operations are Nicaraguan, so Nicaragua herself is reaping the benefit of the production and consumption of the chocolates.
Of course over the last two years I have been an entrepreneurship cheerleader and a value-added production evangelist. On occasion I have heard people say that even if they have a good idea they do not have the funds to make the initial investment and realize the enterprise. I do not know how Chocolate Momotombo financed their tempering machine but many entrepreneurs would throw up their hands in defeat if they heard that they needed an expensive piece of equipment. This attitude frustrates me, and I do not think that I did enough work outside of the classroom altering this attitude. The defining characteristic of entrepreneurship is having a good idea. On the other hand, there are many a fine businesspeople that have capital and find a profitable use for it. To me, they are only intermediaries, capitalists, or providing liquidity to markets. They are not defined by their idea, like an entrepreneur is. Furthermore, an entrepreneur, identifying a great idea, has the initiative to realize the idea and finance it by whatever means necessary.
To be sure, there are financing means other than having personal or close family savings. We teach the students about alternatives to borrowing money for interest, such as selling shares in a new company. It’s a sort of neighborhood, friends, and family private equity scheme. Any entrepreneur with a good idea can likely find capitalists In Nicaragua willing to take a risk for their own benefit and the benefit of society. In addition, there are various organizations willing to help young Nicaraguan companies in the interest of development. I wish that I had developed this theme further in the Va Pues article that I had written about value-added production. Technoserve, Nitlapan, and La Base come to mind immediately. BPN, a Swiss NGO, also has a strong business training program that has the potential to lead to equipment leasing. Seed Capital is another not for profit investment company that operates in Nicaragua and provides capital for value-added production. The avenues are there for entrepreneurs to become successful. ‘No puedo’ is a fatalistic individual attitude that pervades the entrepreneurial culture in Nicaragua right now, but with a concerted effort I truly believe that we can turn it into ‘Si podemos.’
Want to Visit Chocolate Momotombo?
The factory is no longer open for tours, but they have a café where you can try generous helpings of the chocolates and purchase chocolates and fresh drinks. It is in a fairly nice neighborhood in Managua, but I recommend taking a cab since there is a lot of street crime in the city. Short distance rides run for C$ 30 in Managua. The further you go the more they charge.
Planes de Altamira No. 3, de la Pastelería Sampson una cuadra al Sur, 332-A
Want more information or to buy the chocolates?
Website (where you can place orders): http://www.momotombochocolatefactory.com/