I am originally from Detroit. I had an actual Detroit address from the age of 5 to 15, but went to school in the suburbs of Detroit. The only grass I knew was the 12 foot of grass in our front yard, the 26 feet of grass in the backyard and the grass at the park down the street. I now live near Madison, Wisconsin and am surrounded by farms and fields for as far as the eye can see. I spent the majority of the first year that I lived here with my jaw on the floor. I would exclaim “Oh my gosh, there’s a cow!” or “Oh my gosh there’s a horse!”. And it would most certainly stop me dead in my tracks when I would actually see a farmer on a tractor in their field. There’s really not much of that found in my Detroit roots.
We took our children to the Detroit Zoo last year when we visited my family, and how I grew up became abundantly clear when there was a farm exhibit at the zoo with cows, horses, chickens and pigs. Now living here in Wisconsin, I can see those animals just a block up the road. So on that same trip we kept track of how long it took before we saw a farm as we drove out of Detroit. It wasn’t until 1 hour and 48 minutes until we saw a farm from when we left my old neighborhood.
With that background of the cement, urban life I lived and moving into a more rural area of the country, you can easily see why it took some adjustment on my part. However, one of the things that I have come to completely embrace about my new rural surroundings are the farmers, and the concentration here in Madison of the “whole food” mindset. People here grow their own food, they get down and dirty and embrace the entire process, and there’s a respect for the process and the earth that’s palpable. The Madison Farmer’s Market is buzzing in the warmer months and the pride people get from growing their own food or buying food from the farmer down the street is something I have tremendous respect for. In fact, we’ve participated in local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), which I had never even heard of until I moved here.
So you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon Lisa, owner of Roots Chocolates. Lisa epitomizes the entire “farm to plate” mentality that exists here in Wisconsin. Her world renowned business is only about 45 minutes away from our store. We’ve been carrying her incredible creations in our brick and mortar store in Sun Prairie since we opened in May of 2014. You could say my roots and her “roots” are a little different!
Not only is Lisa an award winning Chocolatier (Chocolate Mint Basil won the Bronze at the 2014 International Chocolate Awards), but she is also the farmer of the ingredients that go into her chocolates. The honey that goes into her Lavender Honey chocolates are from bees she keeps right on her farm. The lavender is grown and picked by her hands. She even grows the Aronia berries and raspberries that go into her delightful infusions.
Lisa even travels to Nicaragua herself to check for the perfect fermentation of the cocao beans:
Visit the Roots Chocolates Blog to read more about her process and to see some incredible pictures, including pictures and descriptions of her chocolates. Her chocolates are in a class by themselves. I know this because I’ve tried them all. We do sell them in our store, after all. To say we’ve indulged in a few ourselves would be an understatement!
I have tremendous respect for someone like Lisa that not only is a very well respected business owner, but she’s also the worker, the cook, the creator and the mind behind her business. “From the ground up” defines what she is doing.
Here is a little clip featuring Roots Chocolates by Marcus Corporation for you:
And I asked Lisa if she would mind answering a few questions to share with you, also, here today and she graciously agreed. Read on to learn even more about this powerhouse of an entrepreneur:
TIN: How did you get started? What was the spark that ignited Roots Chocolates?
ROOTS: “I lost my job in technology in 2009. I knew it was going to happen, just not when. When it did, I had all ready been preparing. I had to make the decision of whether to continue in a career in corporate America where I was just another person doing a job or make the jump to self employment. I chose the latter and have not looked back.
I’ve always been an avid foodie. Growing up, when I would get off the school bus, I could smell my mother’s fresh breads wafting through the air. I got the “baking bug” in the family. I’ve always loved baking desserts, so pursuing a career in chocolate has been a gift for my creative outlet.
I have a professional Chocolatier certification out of Vancouver B.C. Canada. I did an internship with one of the instructors of the school and another in Kansas. This gave me the foundation to launch my business in December of 2010.”
TIN: What is the most rewarding part of owning Roots Chocolates?
ROOTS: “The most rewarding part of my business is being able to be a farmer as well and value add the crops we grow here on the farm by infusing them in to my chocolates. Being that close to my fruits, herbs and honey on the farm gives me a sense of place and I hope that love comes through in the chocolates.”
TIN: What has been the most challenging?
ROOTS: “Really, farming is challenging. I have to work with what nature provides on the farm to value add in to my chocolates. If it’s a good fruit year, I’ll have plenty of fruit to work with in developing my seasonal profiles. If it’s a challenging year, then you take when you get, or don’t get, and adjust accordingly. If I don’t have enough of a specific fruit or herb, I start reaching out to my neighbors and fellow Wisconsin farmers.”
TIN: Where do you see yourself and Roots Chocolates in 5 years? 10 years?
ROOTS: “I really focus on the present as much as possible. I do have plans, but have wanted my business to grow organically. I believe it will let me know when I’m ready for the next step. This is a wonderful journey.”
TIN: If there is one thing you’d like people to know about you & your business, what would that one thing be?
ROOTS: “I love what I do! I think if you are happy in your life and the career you choose, it shows through. Growing season fruits, herbs and honey on the farm and buying from other Wisconsin farmers creates an extra ordinary product in my opinion. Sharing it with customers gives me such joy!”
Hats off to Lisa, small business owners and hard workers everywhere. May we know them, be them and raise them!
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