The ringing bell as you walk into Askinosie Chocolate shop and factory in north Springfield is a familiar and welcome sound to the workers there.
On Thursday, Askinosie Chocolate is celebrating its 10 year anniversary with a birthday bash open to the public. While a nationally ranked chocolate business, they also give back to the Springfield community through its Chocolate University.
Missy Gelner is its executive director.
“The mission for Chocolate University is to help inspire students to know a little bit more about themselves, about business, and about how small businesses can solve big world problems.”
Lawren Askinosie, chief marketing officer, added the business gives back to the communities they’re connected to through its cacao farms in Ecuador, Tanzania, and the Philippines.
“When we begin working in these countries we ask you know what is your greatest need…and there was a lot of malnourishment. So we’re really proud to report that not only are we seeing healthier students but were also seeing better involvement and engagement all the way around.”
So far, the company has provided over a million meals to citizens in parts of Africa and Asia through its sustainable lunch program.
As part of Chocolate University, Askinosie Chocolate will take high school students to Tanzania. There, they learn about international business, complete service projects, and observe the interconnectedness of the global economy.
Emma Brand, now a college student at Concordia University, is a graduate of the program and is helping to lead the trip this summer. She says her experience has influenced a lot of decisions by expanding her worldview.
“I’ve discovered a lot of my own passions through the visioning process and through finding different ways to make an impact across the world. This is just a small little factory in Springfield, Missouri making impacts in this community and communities everywhere.”
So far the school program has made four trips to Tanzania, with more planned in the future.
As far as local outreach, Askinosie extends teachings from its Chocolate University to students at Boyd and Pipkin Elementary schools, and has a summer program with Springfield Public Schools for those grades 6-8.
At Boyd, Gelner and Lawren Askinosie are helping students with heart mapping, where they write down what they’re passionate about to look at in the future.
“I’m just incredibly grateful.”
Fifth grader teacher Marjie Dewilde has worked with Chocolate University before.
“It’s really fun when they come in, because I enjoy that they have a lesson that I didn’t think of, and that they have a new way of teaching it, and they’re really inspiring to the kids too.
Askinosie Chocolate was founded by Shawn Askinosie, who previously served as a criminal defense attorney. Now, Askinosie Chocolate is one of the top ranked chocolate producers in the nation, and is one of very few that source directly with farms around the world.
“We have a lot planned for the coming year,” says Lawren Askinosie. “We’ll be introducing a lot of new products, and even a brand new origin.”
They will also be releasing a book about business vocation later this year.
As for Thursday evening’s birthday bash, residents of the community are invited out to Askinosie shop and factory for free chocolate samples, ice cream and drinks, factory tours, and live music. The bash will be held from 5-7 pm.