One Wharton graduate is doing something a bit sweeter with his MBA degree.
Colin Hartman, 2014 MBA graduate and veteran, is developing Concept C — a chocolate factory in Washington, D.C. with a platform he calls neither not-for-profit nor for-profit, but rather “for purpose.”
Concept C will offer a storefront cafe with tours, workshops and tastings and will open its factory to the public over the weekends. It is expected to open at some point over the summer.
Before developing Concept C, Hartman and his wife, a current student in the College of Liberal and Professional Studies Sarah Hartman, started a project they called District Chocolate. Their idea was a “bean-to-bar” plan, where they would import cacao beans and process them into high-end chocolate.
Soon afterward, however, the Hartmans realized that there was already a market for chocolate, and they weren’t interested in using an idea that already existed. Instead, they opted to “turn it on its head.”
“There’s a ton of chocolate companies — why would anybody start a new company?” Hartman said. “We had to do something with a purpose, something that mattered.”
Sarah — who is from Sao Paolo, Brazil — had taken classes in chocolate making and chocolate sourcing in France, Switzerland and Ecuador. The Hartmans decided to incorporate her background in chocolate and Brazilian roots into their business model. The “C” in the company’s name stands for “Cacao chocolate and conservation.”
After a fungal infestation during the 1980s and 1990s, Brazilian rainforests faced threats of deforestation as farmers turned damaged sections of the rainforest into cattle land.
“The cacao bean is very finicky and needs a tropical rainforest in order to produce seeds,” Hartman said. Part of their business model aims to reforest Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest. In a process they call “value recycling,” the Hartmans plan to reinvest their profits back into the rainforest, ensuring that the land is integrated into private nature preserves that will be run by trusted NGOs.
“I wanted to build a company that takes the idea of a value chain and turns it into a value cycle,” Hartman said. “Meaning we extract a piece of the value we create and reinvest in our sources to complete the cycle and amplify the capabilities and health of that source, and therefore my supply chain and products.”
Hartman attended New York University where he studied economics and history. Between his junior and senior years of college, Hartman attended Officer Candidates School for the Marines. He was accepted to the Marines and joined the service immediately after receiving his degree.
Hartman served in Afghanistan and spent four years in the Marines before deciding to apply to business school. “I achieved what I intended to do,” Hartman said of his decision to leave the service. Inspired by his own experience, Hartman hopes to focus on hiring veterans at Concept C. “It isn’t our main mission, but it’s important,” Hartman said.
Hartman later spent time in Brazil, where he worked as a project manager at olook, an e-commerce fashion start-up, for seven months before applying to Wharton. He grappled with his decision to become a business student. After taking on an internship at a retail firm, he was left disillusioned with the professional world. “This isn’t what I came to school to do,” he said.
Much of the influence Hartman received for the concept came from Wharton professor Erwann Michel-Kerjan’s MBA class, “Environmental Sustainability and Value Creation.” Michel-Kerjan remembers working with Hartman on the early stages of his project.
“Most companies that will lead the corporate world tomorrow do not exist today. Colin’s might very well be one of them,” Michel-Kerjan said in an email. “And whatever he decides to do next will probably be big. He thinks international, full-life cycle and knows that creating value is essential.”
2014 MBA recipient Azita Habibiok, one of Hartman’s classmates, helped him practice his pitch for the Wharton Venture Initiation Program.
“It was very apparent that they were very passionate,” Habibi said of Hartman and his wife. “I think that they’re just a great team, as two individuals and as a couple. They’re very different but complementary.”
“We’re all gone sooner or later,” Hartman said. “I don’t think anyone thought chocolate could have tangible social impact. Life is short and you can’t waste time going into professions that aren’t going to make you happy.”
Corrections: A previous version of this article indicated that Colin Hartman spent four years in Afghanistan and interned at a consulting firm before business school, when he actually spent four years in the Marines and interned at a retail firm. The article also indicated that Sarah Hartman completed her master's degree while she is still finishing it. The DP regrets the errors.Comments powered by Disqus
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