10 Things I’ve Learned from a Chocolate Evangelist as a Social Entrepreneur

It is truly shocking that modern slavery still exists in the 21st century. In 2005, Tony’s Chocolonely was founded by journalists of the Dutch TV-program “Food Unwrapped”. They discovered that many chocolate manufacturers had been using child slaves at their cocoa farms. 

The Dutch chocolate brand exists to make a difference. After more than 15 years in the market, it has grown into the number 1 chocolate brand in the Netherlands. Every day it continues to create awareness of the inequality in the chocolate industry. Tony’s purpose is to achieve 100% slave-free cocoa and set a good example.

This is where Ynzo van Zanten plays a huge role. As Tony’s ‘Choco Evangelist’, Ynzo proudly shares the story on any stage he can find. He’s traveled across the globe, spoken in front of thousands, and is on a serious mission to end slavery.    


Here are 10 things I learned from a Choco Evangelist


1. How to stop slavery

On top of creating awareness through petitions and talks, you can also attack the issue from the inside. Tony’s Chocolonely decided to make an impact from within the industry by creating its very own chocolate brand. All cocoa farmers get paid the fair trade price and they also receive a premium. The fair trade premium is an additional 50% on top of the market price.

There’s a famous proverb that goes:

“Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime”

Not only do the farmers get paid what they deserve, but the extra money they receive goes towards good causes. To end this cruel act, it takes more than just giving money. Other areas of their lives can be improved as well such as education, health, and female empowerment.

To give these farmers better opportunities in life, Tony’s has carried out the following:

  • Built schools and canteens for the community
  • Increased productivity by teaching new farming techniques
  • Empowered female farmers
  • Encouraged the wives of farmers to start businesses
  • Improved the health situation


2. Build a business that benefits society

It’s unacceptable to be in a business where people are suffering. When you build one, think about the positive impact that you will have on people. Tony’s was launched for a specific purpose – to change the industry from within.

You might think the only way to do it is by being a charity organization. But Tony’s Chocolonely has shown the world that you can be a commercial company with a clear mission. With a financial profit, there is more impact to be made. Things can be done differently.

3. Tell your story everywhere

If you have a clear and meaningful purpose, grab any opportunity to tell your story. Keep in mind that it’s not the size of the audience, but the quality. There’s no point in talking in front of 1000 people who are not interested in what you have to say. You might have an audience of 10 people who genuinely care and will be your best brand ambassadors. 

When telling your story, be fully transparent with no hidden agendas. If it truly contributes to the world, word of mouth will help to spread your values.  

4. Growth is more important than profit

To be able to make an impact on the world, a business needs to be successful in terms of profit. Profitability is critical to a company’s existence, but growth will help you to stay in the game for many more years to come. The goal of growth is to make more impact. When the rest of the industry is trying to rake in a 20-25% net profit, Tony’s is only looking for 4%. This Dutch chocolatier is trying to do things differently than all the players in the chocolate industry.  

After entering the Dutch market, Tony’s went to the US. It wasn’t a logical step as most companies would expand to other European countries first before introducing its products to a new continent. Nevertheless, the slave-free chocolate chose Portland, Oregon. The reason being that Oregon is a very food conscious state with many early food movements. 


5. Humans are not resources

A few minutes into our conversation, Ynzo states that HR is the lamest word. In his opinion, it is such a dehumanizing word because people are nothing like tin or copper. You can’t compare people to resources. 

At Tony’s, you won’t be able to find the Human Resources department. Instead, it goes by the name People & Culture. The people in your company are so important that you should be treating them with more respect. It is also necessary that they feel happy to be working for you. 

Although work is a serious thing, try to make work as fun as possible. Always communicate and stay connected. Something as simple as lunch can make a huge difference. If you work at Tony’s, everyone has lunch together. You get to sit down with people from different teams and enjoy a nice meal specially prepared by their chef.  


6. 2 pillars: team and impact

The secret ingredients for running a good business are team and impact. There can only be an impact if your team is made up of the most inspired and motivated individuals.

Ynzo shares a quote by Richard Branson: 

“I’m not happy because I’m successful. I’m successful because I’m happy.”


Your employees come first because they will create happy customers. At Tony’s, the number of employees grew from 30 to 160 people in the last 3 years. From the onboarding process onwards, there are regular chats and checks. Ynzo explains that when you start working for Tony’s, you learn about the background of cocoa and how to make chocolate in the first week. A buddy is assigned to you to make sure that you settle down without any problems. Everyone is taken care of and there are constant checks to find out if people are happy or want to move on to another place. 


7. How to build a global brand with a zero-paid media policy

Since the day Tony’s Chocolonely was founded, it has adopted a zero-paid media policy. You won’t see any commercial ads. Not even on Google or Facebook. To create awareness, Tony’s chooses to use these methods:

  • Work with the right journalists
  • Launch petitions
  • Engage serious friends as brand ambassadors
  • Presentations around the world 
  • Word of mouth


As of 2020, there are 35,000 serious friends of Tony’s Chocolonely. You can sign up on their website or through QR codes found on their wrappers and presentations. Ultimately, they believe that the story they’re trying to tell deserves more than a few seconds on paid media.   


8. The evolution of 20th-century capitalism

In the 20th Century, many businesses sought out with one focus in mind – to make as much money as possible. However, the world has noticed an uneven distribution of wealth. While you have extremely wealthy people, you also have extremely poor ones.

Capitalism is evolving and a lot of entrepreneurs are beginning to ponder about their purpose in society. It’s not about how much wealth one can accumulate, but it’s about the impact and footprint left behind. It’s about love, empathy, and making a difference.


9. The pandemic has triggered entrepreneurship

Due to recent circumstances, many things have been forced to change quickly. There are fewer face-to-face interactions and more online meetings. Most physical stores closed to stop the spread. According to Ynzo, this has spurred entrepreneurship. 

These days you will see more online transactions and deliveries. The capitalist system we’ve been living in is going through recalibration. There are plenty of opportunities around for entrepreneurs to grab and you will see a rise in small business owners. Unexpectedly, the pandemic has played a role in reducing the dominance of large corporations. 


10. You’re never too small to make a difference

Everyone in the world can make a difference. The size of your business doesn’t matter. If you’re a small entrepreneur, never doubt that you can have an impact on the world. 

Ynzo uses Anita Roddick’s quote as reference:

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room”.


As an entrepreneur, you shouldn’t be engrossed in the size of your company. Instead, always think about what good you’re bringing to the table. Even if it’s not much, it still counts. If it’s something that creates a better world, people will notice and you will naturally grow bigger.   

Entrepreneurship is not what it used to be. Today, it involves being social. It’s not just about being financially successful anymore. It is possible to combine being sustainable with making money. And in the future, you will see more and more successful entrepreneurs that embrace this idea.  



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  1. […] If you want to know more about Tony’s Chocolonely and how they want to eliminate slavery within the world of chocolate, we had Ynzo van Zanten as a guest on ‘Impact Talks’ telling their story. He is the Chief Evangelist at Tony’s Chocolonely. You can also read about it in our blog 10 Things I’ve Learned from a Chocolate Evangelist as a Social Entrepreneur. […]

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