Tony.. Tribe Chieftain
Although his last name is Portugal, Tony is an All-American entrepreneur making his dream come true while also making an impact in the world. Did we mention that he’s doing this with drinking chocolate? It’s safe to say that we jumped at the chance to find out more about Tony, his business partner Liam and their product, CaCoCo.
Interview by Nina Ricci
University of Pittsburgh
MAJR: Media & Professional Communications
So, Tony, for starters, what’s it like somewhat following in Willy Wonka’s footsteps? Did you look up to him as a kid?
Actually, I think we all look up to Willy Wonka to some degree! He is the imaginarian of never-ending magic; I think that’s what any entrepreneur wants. Even if he wasn’t my direct idol, it’s nice to learn from him that business could be magic.
What separates you from Willy and his Chocolate Factory? Tell us where and how this product is made.
Willy uses the cacao bean, just like us. Our chocolate however, is all wild-harvested, raw cacao from Ecuador where it’s naturally spring-fed. We take the beans and make cacao paste chocolate bars, which are then ground up into our super-food blend. We take chocolate back to the roots. All-natural chocolate isn’t what our pallets are used to, so people go nuts over it.
Did you know what you were getting yourself into when you started a business? Did your major in college prepare you at all, or did this have nothing at all to do with your major?
I chose to major in International Business. In my opinion, school isn’t designed to prepare you for business. Instead, they give you an understanding for how business works. If it were to teach you what business is, then we’d have a lot more entrepreneurs. So no, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but our key to success is always reaching out and asking for help.
Many of us know the story about Archimedes, you know, that old dude from Italy who had the “Eureka!” moment when he discovered buoyancy. Did you have your own “Eureka!” moment when you realized you wanted to get into this business?
I was at a farmers’ market in a little town with all these gypsettes, yogis, and all sorts of people who are very focused on their passions. I first met my business partner, Liam, there, and I tried his chocolate, and “Wow!” I had a moment that I believe everyone who tries CaCoCo has, my face lit up and I started to smile. I knew I wanted to be a part of this, bringing my focus of sustainability into the mix.
Tony (middle), Liam (right) & friend sharing the magic potion that is CaCoCo
How did you even go about starting a business in the first place? Many of us wouldn’t even know where to start. Did you start on something and have things kind of fall into place, or did it take many steps with grueling efforts?
It took many steps. Liam and I are doers, not simply hopers. We would tend to just do something and wish we’d done more prior research. Each step along the way, we made mistakes but also huge leaps and incredible growth. Now we always find ourselves retracing our steps just to be sure we’ve done things right.
Were your close friends and relatives supportive of you going after your dream or were they hesitant to watch you take that leap, not knowing where you’d end up?
After graduation, I got a job in corporate, thinking that’s what everyone expected of me, but it just wasn’t part of my mission. I broke off from that to learn what could be my own passion, and at first, everyone was worried. But when people see drive, passion, and focus, no one’s worried; they just know that you’re going down your own path. So with that, I also had support.
Did you ever consider going on the show Shark Tank or something like it to grow your business? They team up and financially support entrepreneurs with the right kind of products to help both parties roll in the dough, or in your case, cacao beans (cymbal clash).
Someone mentioned that to us once, and we said, “Are you crazy?” That is so off of what we’re doing—so off-brand. For us, we don’t want someone in it that’s just trying to turn a profit. We want investors who believe in our product and believe in what we’re doing.
So this is where happiness comes from..
What was the most delicious thing you’ve ever made with your product, CaCoCo? Or do you just prefer to keep it simple and drink it either cold or hot?
Personally, I love CaCoCo every way. It’s packaged as a chocolate crumble so people can do whatever they want with it. Liam did come up with one of my favorites, which was a raw chocolate cheesecake. We had to take a picture of it first for our website, but once I got to eat it, it was the most gratifying moment.
Some of us are very tempted by this product (our salivary glands are currently a force to be reckoned with!) but we’re trying this whole “clean eating” thing. Can you explain the nutritional benefits so we can order CaCoCo by the truckload and not feel guilty about it?
CaCoCo is created with the philosophy that whole, unrefined foods have the inherent capacity to nourish our bodies. We use the entire cacao bean, stone-ground into 100% chocolate, and then supplement it with all-organic super-food sweeteners and spices, making it low-glycemic, dairy-free, and packed with antioxidants, minerals, and amino acids. So, by all means, be guilt-free!
What is a little piece of advice you can give to our readers to stick with them throughout the day (or even longer)? It doesn’t have to be anything like “live, laugh, love,” although that message is quite catchy and to the point. What’s something you want us all to take away from your experiences?
Be the you that you want to be, and follow through with where your passion takes you. If you don’t have passion, then you really don’t have much. Don’t expect anyone else to do anything for you or tell you exactly what you need to do; only you can make those judgment calls, so get out there and do what you feel is right for you!