Lauren Blanco and Preston Stewart founded Markham & Fitz in 2014, when they pooled together their savings to purchase their very first pieces of chocolate making equipment. Why were the University of Arkansas alumni so keen on cocoa? Lauren worked in grassroots economic development in war torn countries for 5 years, where she encountered her first cacao farm. Determined to use business as a force of good and make a positive difference in the cacao supply chain, she teamed up with Preston, whose background in chemistry and fascination with food science established him as the company’s master of flavor creation.
Lauren currently serves as CEO and sole proprietor, but the mission that originally guided Markham & Fitz (not to mention its signature forward-thinking flavor combos) more than lives on. In order to source their single-origin cacao as sustainably and ethically as possible, the maker works closely with cocoa farms such as Oko Caribe in the Dominican Republic, which provides technical training, organic certification, and finance and personal loans for its network of 165 farmers. There’s also La Colonia in Nicaragua, which enabled the community use profits from cocoa sales to wire local electricity and open their first internet café, and PISA in Haiti, which uses private sector innovation to partner with smallholder farmers, and offer them pricing transparency, a consistent market, and an elimination of risk.
With every bite of their bars crafted from sky-high percentages of highest quality chocolate, and riddled with alluring additions like black salt, lavender, pumpkin seeds and acai, you can help honor the invisible woven network of people and plants that sustain both livelihoods and lives.
The more you cocoa.