#127. Lickity Split Chocolate Studio

Posted on | The Agurban
Lickity Split Chocolate Studio

I couldn’t pass up the story behind Lickity Split Chocolate that appeared in theĀ May 2007 Rural Entrepreneurship Newsletter.

When local Navajo children knocked on her door to ask for ticket money to the movies, Elaine Borgen, a VISTA volunteer who moved to Blanding, UT after 20 years in the corporate world, responded, “I can’t lend you all money, but come back tomorrow and we’ll try to figure out a way for you to make your own money.” Lickity Split Chocolate began after a brainstorming session with local children in Blanding.

Blanding is located in San Juan County, UT, one of the nation’s poorest and largest counties and the state’s only county with a Native American majority. Thirty percent of the residents live below the poverty line and less than one percent of businesses are Native American owned. Getting out of poverty, Elaine argues, is a matter of first acquiring skills and then assets.

Fifteen children, ages 8 to 16, are managers of the chocolate factory. Roles are assigned from CEO, COO, CFO, president, vice president and managers of production, shipping and handling, computer, art, and sales and marketing departments. The children must exceed a 2.5 grade point average. Elaine sees to it that the children are learning what it takes to run a business, from how to do the books, how to put a quality control system in place and how to cost and market the products.

The company’s flagship product is a chocolate lollipop decorated like a traditional Navajo basket. Additional products include truffles, caramel apples presented in origami boxes, hogan, teepee and Kokopelli-shaped chocolates, chocolate-dipped strawberries and pretzels, painted pottery and jewelry.

Their inspiring project has garnered attention, recognition and rewards. Through generous grants, each child was awarded a bicycle and a computer. Elaine was recently named Small Business Associations Minority Champion of the Year.

The kids admit they enjoy their work – maybe too much. One states in a businesslike manner, “Our waste is about 30 percent, which is higher than at other chocolate factories, but it’s hard for us to keep our hands off the chocolate!”

Entrepreneurship can begin at a young age. And it can have very sweet rewards!