A mobile app to discover and create a community around ethically sourced fine chocolate from all over the world.
Homepage of the app (MVP stage).
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Date You Started Your Project Started
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Start-Up (first few activities have happened)
1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
We all love a delicious chocolate bar, but most of us aren't aware of injustices like child labor and wage-shorting that produced it. In the cacao industry, farmers and their families (mostly in third-world countries) are routinely exploited because of the lack of transparency on the consumer side (mostly in first-world countries). Enabling consumers to make more informed purchases is crucial to creating accountability in the industry.
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Molinillo's mission is to create a community around ethically sourced cacao and empower chocolate enthusiasts to make more informed decisions about the chocolate they consume. We do this by partnering with the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (a non-profit dedicated to ethical sourcing) to vet the products displayed on our platform for any signs of exploitation. We also empower small, ethical chocolate producers with limited capital to market their products on the app.
You can browse the app idly, or use the search bar or barcode scanner to find a chocolate. You can also rate, comment on, and save your favorites. Each chocolate listing has cacao, origin, and vendor information for maximum transparency. If you can't find a chocolate, you can add it yourself using the barcode scanner – we will validate that it's ethically sourced before displaying it on the app. We are already partnering with 40+ chocolate producers to launch Molinillo at the New England Chocolate Festival in October 2019!
With Molinillo, we hope to create transparency around the fine chocolate industry, and ultimately a fairer world for the cacao farmers and workers who make our lives more delicious.
3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
During my senior year at Harvard University, I took Professor Carla Martin’s Chocolate Class: Chocolate, Culture, and Politics of Food, which forever changed the way I see fine chocolate. I learned not only about the rich history of chocolate, but also about the ugly truth hiding within the cacao industry’s supply chain today: deep exploitation of farmers and workers. As a consumer, I wanted to become more intentional but didn’t know how – especially when these problems felt so far away in countries like Mexico, Coitre Voir, and Nigeria.
After discussing with my colleague, Maieda, our enthusiasm to tackle this problem only grew. We set out to empower ourselves (and other consumers) to make more informed decisions about chocolate, and this was the beginning of Molinillo!
– Javier Cuan-Martinez, co-founder
4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”
Why we are standing up to make a change: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SPf4mDTd6obuI4rEwHec5ccUh5aoHEuo/view?usp=sharing
AND demo and pitch to chocolate vendors: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dWlGtxpYgMLeMxYvUP6vG88srBXAhq5p/view
5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
A hypothetical example from the upcoming New England Chocolate Festival: a chocolate enthusiast samples a chocolate that she loves, but wants to make sure it is ethical before buying. She scans the barcode on the chocolate, and Molinillo pulls up the listing. Because it is on Molinillo, she can be sure that the chocolate is ethical. Moreover, she sees that the cacao is from the Dominican Republic, which is her favorite source country of cacao. She also sees that the chocolate has a 5-star rating from other users and stellar reviews in the comment section. She's now sure she wants to buy it, not only because it's ethical but because users have found it delicious!
The chocolate vendor, a small business owner from Vermont with limited capital for marketing, is reaching more users digitally by using Molinillo than he could previously by himself. Molinillo helps expand his local business.
6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
1) Our process for vetting chocolates. Other solutions, for the most part, simply take the chocolate producer's word for it. We partner with the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, a non-profit run by a Harvard professor dedicated to ethical sourcing, for their careful standards for ethical chocolate.
2) Our user experience. Other solutions simply display a list of ethical chocolates that you have to scroll through, while we provide mobile-first tools for searching, scanning barcodes, uploading images, and rating and commenting on chocolates to create community around ethical chocolate.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
We have 70+ chocolates already loaded (from 8 vendors from all over the world) within a week of launching the app, and aim to load up to a 100 before the New England Chocolate Festival, which sees 1200+ attendees every year. From users at the festival, we aim to get even more content especially in the form of ratings, comments, and user feedback.
8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
Our immediate next steps are focused on marketing Molinillo for the New England Chocolate Festival. After that, we will focus on improving the user experience as we actively collect feedback from users, as well as expanding partnerships with more chocolate vendors to get their products on our platform. In the next year, we also plan to revise our codebase to make it more reusable and scalable as we continue to grow.
9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?
How did you hear about this challenge?