The most valuable chocolate in the world has become a central part of my resumé. Meeting people along this journey I receive questions like, how did you reach the position of General Manager of a luxury brand like To’ak?
What has been your career progression? What studies did you undertake? How? Why? etc. Like all human beings on this planet I have my own story, a road full of adventures and misadventures.
I was born in Quito, Ecuador. I am the last daughter of nine brothers, my parents come from an indigenous community in the countryside and they looked for another life in the city. I never met my dad. My mother had to be incredibly strong to help us find our path in life and to simply put food on our table. She is, and always will be, my best example and reference of love, perseverance, humility, respect and much much more.
When I was very young my only goal was to finish school, it seemed so difficult because I had no financial support, so I worked during the day and studied at night and I’m proud to say that I did it! With this early victory I knew that there was much more in life to aim for and achieve. Since this early achievement I have met many people who have contributed, each in their own way, to my journey.
I still remember when I met my life partner, Carl – the artist, we were very young and we loved to indulge in the simple pleasures of life. In my land we say to live the “chulla vida”, an expression similar to “carpe diem”. His way of viewing the world inspired me to look beyond my own horizon. I began to focus on my strengths, rather than on my weaknesses, and this helped me to flourish. There were many times where I was so afraid to take on unfamiliar challenges and face up to new realities. I remember crying at times, overwhelmed with a feeling of being unable, but Carl and others close to me at the time showed me that I could overcome these self imposed barriers.
On International Women’s Day we remember our struggles and stories of resistance
My love for nature, respect for life and for my ancestry, led me to study Ancestral Medicine and Sustainable Local Development early in my career. Studying and working on something that truly inspired me gave me the determination to finish my university studies, a goal that sometimes seemed impossibly difficult. Becoming the first university educated member of my family was an incredible experience, it was something that I never imagined I could accomplish.
My personal nature is that I am always very open to forming new friendships and I am always happy to meet new people. One day in 2013 I met a very nice young man who worked in an ecological reserve on the Ecuadorian coast. That person is Jerry Toth, he had a vision to start a different kind of chocolate brand, and he is now my colleague and co-founder of To’ak. This is where my epic journey with luxury chocolate began.
As an ambitious start-up there was always more to do at To’ak than resources or people to complete the work. My initial involvement was voluntary as I was still working in a local development research role. Little by little I became more and more involved at To’ak. Soon we recognized each others strengths and weaknesses and we helped to complement each other – that’s team work after all! We were like “the three musketeers” together in the good and the bad. Nobody was more or less important than the other, it was not even a topic, we just shared a dream and the respect and affection for one another.
Reflecting on my journey, I came to this world with empty hands and now I am able to share my brief history as a human being and my role in building the world’s most valuable chocolate. For me To’ak has not been about value of our cacao or the chocolate that we lovingly produce, it has been about the experience of building a project led by values, where respect, equality and love for people and their contribution is valued above everything else.
International Women’s Day is a day where we remember our struggles and stories of resistance. It is a moment where we try to be more aware of the difficult realities that women face in the everyday, struggles that sometimes seem so normal to us.
What if on International Women’s Day, our reflection could lead us to the conviction that we can overcome any gender imbalance, that we can live and build a better world where these struggles become ancient history that our children learn about in museums, and where we all practice respect for individuals on a daily basis. How about we embrace and raise a toast in honor of the other stories that women are sharing today!
This piece was first published in 2018.