Agriculture has always been a smart business choice but often deemed “too traditional” for a generation exploring the various modern means of earning an income. Well now, agriculture is not only cool but it is sexy as well, and its all thanks to chocolate!
Did you know that “Chocolate contains the chemicals phenylethylamine and serotonin, which are thought to be mood boosters and mild sexual stimulants. Eating chocolate makes you feel good, even euphoric.” In the late Twentieth Century, Michael Liebowitz of the New York State Psychiatric institute proved that the phenylethylamine in chocolate releases the same hormone as sexual intercourse.
If this doesn’t make you want to become a cocoa farmer then maybe the story of Fady Hocheimy, founder of Gambia’s first chocolate company, FH Bites will make you reconsider. As a smart and successful businessman, Fady has found a new niche and market in the Gambian agricultural sphere. We asked to shared his journey.
Tell us your story. Who is Fady Hocheimy?
I am a husband and father to beautiful twins!
Born and raised in The Gambia, I am the proprietor and Managing Director of MFH Group (LG, Sunu Kerr, Banjul Pharmacy, King Food) with businesses around the country. I travelled as a teenager to continue my education in Lebanon. I graduated from the American University of Beirut with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Business Administration. In 2003, I joined my father in our family business, MFH Group.
My cocoa journey started in 2008, when I received a cocoa seedling as a gift from a Ghanaian employee. Ten years later, in 2018, I embarked on the crazy adventure of making chocolate.
What does the chocolate making process entail?
Chocolate making starts with fermenting the cocoa beans for 5 days and then, drying them in the sun for another 5 days. The fun begins when we roast them for about 40 minutes, and then peel the beans to be left with the cocoa nibs, which will be used in the chocolate recipe of choice. The nibs, along with the other ingredients, are placed into a wet stone grinder (melanger), which will grind, warm and mix them for at least 12 hours (24 hours recommended). After that, the chocolate is tempered in order to achieve a beautiful shine, a great snap, and better melting point. Finally, they are ready to be poured into the molds and left in the fridge to solidify. And voila, we have chocolate!
The coco making industry is often exploited by the western world with producers like yourself making the least profit in the supply chain. How will FH bites navigate this space? And what role do you think this exploitation plays in why this isn’t a business venture pursued in Gambia, if applicable?
It is very important that more people get on board especially, farmers. When I discovered that cocoa grows so easily in The Gambia, I started sharing this experience publicly. I hope one day The Gambia can export cocoa, considering that West Africa exports 70% of the world’s Cocoa. Unfortunately, the same West Africa gets only 2% of chocolate profits.
Governments must assist by promoting local chocolate production and placing higher taxes on imported chocolate if we are to compete.
What is your vision for FH bites in five years?
I recently, planted 50 new seedlings. My goal is to have enough cocoa to supply my chocolate making venture. Moreover, I hope more Gambians pursue this endeavor.
My vision is that FH Bites chocolates be consumed in The Gambia, West Africa and internationally.
As a successful businessman, What’s one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned over the course of your career?
I believe one’s personality is most important. Nowadays, knowledge is easily accessible, if you look for it.
I believe the following key principles are essential: Discipline, productivity and fun. One must be passionate and determined about what they are doing. In order, to run a successful business, a great team is needed. Businesses are run by people. Therefore, I invest my time training my team and creating leaders.
Moreover, I have learnt to be humble and honest. People like to deal with those who they can trust and relate to. I, also, learnt to be very organized. That is the only way I can manage everything in my life and still smile. Through meditation, I have learnt to divide my mental time and not just, my physical time. You must be present in everything you do, physically and mentally. And lastly, I have a great team at work and a great wife, who has been very supportive of everything I do. I am a better man because of my wife.
What has this new business venture taught you about yourself that you didn’t know before?
Water tastes better when you’re thirsty, so do the pleasures of life. We have to work hard and work smart. Keep learning and looking for opportunities; they are everywhere, but they come to those who seek them.
We don’t know what we love until we find the things we like. I could have ignored the cocoa tree in my garden, but I did not. I was curious, and the rest is history. I discovered that I love producing things from nothing using my hands. I get so much joy following the process with the goal in mind. That final smooth and silky chocolate bar in my hand makes the long hours in the kitchen worth it.
If you could give business advice to investors exploring the Gambian market at-large, what sector would you advise them to invest in? And why?
There are so many opportunities in The Gambia, but for sure agriculture is top on my list. We have amazingly fertile soil and half our river is freshwater. We have to become self-sufficient when it comes to food.
When you have free time on your hands, how do you spend it?
I spend time with my family. I, also, exercise regularly to make sure my mind and body are healthy.
I love technology and spend time reading about the latest stuff out. I, also, make time to share the little I know about this world with others especially, young Gambians.
The Our Stories, Our Way Fast Three!
1. What’s your favorite song at the moment?
Nominate by Stonebwoy ft. Keri Hilson
2. If you had a superpower, what would it be:
Eliminate all kinds of prejudice in the world: racism, tribalism, religious bias and so, on.
3.If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why?
Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi together, on one table because they changed the world in their own unique ways.