Darril Saunders: Chocolate is her passion — and business too

Darril Saunders standing in front of sun backdrop (© 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com)
Darril Saunders (© 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com)

In the late 2000s, Darril Astrida Saunders was looking for a way to earn extra money. An agricultural manager by education, she looked at the business side of the 10-hectare cocoa estate in eastern Trinidad owned by her family. The 40-year-old mother of two realized that cocoa beans didn’t produce much profit; cocoa-based products did.

Drawing inspiration from local tradition, Saunders experimented with old recipes for chocolate beverages in her home kitchen and tested them on family and friends. Encouraged by the response, she started marketing her chocolate drinks at fairs, festivals and souvenir stores under the Exotic Caribbean Mountain Pride brand. She learned about retail, machines and other business-related issues through trial and error.

“I’m motivated to grow as an entrepreneur,” Saunders says.

Cocoa beans in a basket (star5112 / Creative Commons)
The value of cocoa beans is in the eye of an entrepreneur. (star5112 / Creative Commons)

She introduced new flavors, added chocolate liqueurs and other cocoa-based goods to her production line, started selling through supermarkets, and explored markets in the U.S. and the U.K.

She relies on an older brother and two daughters for the bulk of the work and employs three people.

The company continues to expand, but its founder wants to preserve the artisanal taste of her products.

“I want to be [remembered as] someone who did something for cocoa in Trinidad and Tobago,” she told the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian newspaper.

Saunders was selected to attend the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley, California.