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Company Profile: Raphio Chocolate

Raphio Chocolate

On the southwest corner of First and Barstow, near the center of Fresno, California, you’ll find one of the best little chocolate shops in the state. Look hard, because you might miss it.

Raphio’s Chocolate was started in 2015 by Yohanes Makmur and a business partner, both immigrants from Indonesia. They were both working other jobs at the time but wanted something else. Noticing the craft chocolate market and remembering the cacao beans back home, they were surprised to learn that Indonesian chocolate wasn’t even on the map. Originally, they’d hoped to simply be an importer of cacao beans, but life would take them a different direction—much to the benefit of the rest of us.

The pair reached out to their connections back home and found a farmer they liked working with. The farmer shipped them samples and products that both liked, and they started selling them in the U.S. Hopeful, the pair made a massive order of 1.5 tons… more than their supplier could actually handle, as it turned out. The aesthetic quality didn’t meet U.S. producer’s standards, and Yohanes found himself with 1 and a half tons of cacao beans that he didn’t know what to do with.

That’s when his wife Elisia stepped in. She loved the idea of making chocolate from scratch and took those beans, beginning to experiment with them. While Elisia wasn’t the biggest chocolate fanatic, her husband and children were, and she was making chocolate for them. Her standard was simple: whatever chocolate she made had to be good enough for her kids. Not simply in taste, but in quality. Nothing artificial, nothing she wouldn’t want her kids eating. 

That standard has remained the same, since. And, when Yohanes decided to begin selling this chocolate, he named the shop accordingly: Raphio, after his sons Raphael and Rio. 

Among their greatest challenges, as a microfactory, has been space. It’s obvious when you stand in the front of their store. It’s beautiful and stacked temptingly with cacao beans, cacao tea, chocolates, bonbons, and espresso. You can see the space where they make the chocolate through a small glass window. Speaking as someone who’s been back there for a tour, trust me: there’s not much more space than you can see. As such, they often have to move equipment, clean, and disinfect between tasks, simply because they don’t have the room for a distributed factory space. 

They hope to expand as the Coronavirus pandemic reaches its end, maybe with the hope of two of their most reliable allies. The first is the CMTC, which helped them start operations, offered grants for human resources trainings, and assisted them in marketing through the local advisor, Craig Scharton. This is the same man who connected them to many of their current partners. The second notable partner is the Small Business Development Center, who has offered low-cost and free webinars, teaching them how to run a business and build their brand.

Perhaps this local support—always strong in the Fresno area—is part of the reason that, by Yohanes’s own admission, Raphio’s has a dedicated passion for keeping their partners local. 

Among their first and most notable partners are Enzo’s Olive Oil, who contributes the oil that makes one of their most delectable bars, and local coffee giant Kuppajoy. They consulted with Kuppajoy before building their brand and, since opening, have offered chocolate coffee beans and espresso, both sourced from Kuppajoy. Meanwhile, Kuppajoy is one of the most reliable places to find Raphio’s chocolate bars, lately, they’ve even expanded their local outreach to nearby Madera, where Ficklin Vineyard’s Port Wine plays a crucial part in the making of Raphio’s delicious and hard-to-get bon bons. 

Raphio’s offerings aren’t limited to chocolate. Before the pandemic, they’d also began to focus on education, offering incredibly informative tours of the factory, complete with details about the chocolate harvesting process and life in Indonesia. You’re given a chance to touch the chocolate, taste it, smell it, breathe it. In the future, they hope to grow their educational offerings, maybe making them extracurricular opportunities for local schools and senior homes. Yohanes hopes to use this education to change childrens’ eating habits at a young age, showing them the benefits of dark chocolate and real chocolate, as opposed to the “chocolate-flavored sugar” you’ll find in grocery aisles. 

Likewise, they want a cultural lesson wrapped into the tour, as well. Yohanes would like to teach about the places these cacao beans originate from, possibly partnering with local organizations to bring artifacts to show children. 

But, this comes back to the problem of space. The factory floor is too small for them to offer tours outside of weekends, when schools are closed and people are staying inside, away from the Valley heat. When they expand, they hope to keep this goal of education in mind, researching circulation, space planning, and how people move from one spot to another to expand in a way that allows them to offer tours and increase production without impeding each other.

Yohanes says that, when you pay attention to the ingredients of your food, you shouldn’t simply look at health. You need to pay attention of how it’s made, where, and by who. This chocolate is craft, he says. Its story isn’t limited to Fresno. The farmers back in Indonesia are an integral part of it, and part of the reason for the extra price of the chocolate is that the money goes directly to farmers to better their family’s lives.

One question remains, though: what is Yohanes’s favorite chocolate on offer? He admits that chocolate is an enormous weakness of his, and doesn’t hesitate on his answer: his favorite is the dark chocolate from Tanzania, 72%. It starts like eating honey, and as it melts gives way to flavors of fruits and berries. After you swallow, it lingers on your tongue with a nice tang. Yohanes describes the process of a “rollercoaster of flavors” that is “playing a concert in your mouth.”

It shouldn’t be any surprise that the bar has won competitions in places as far away as London. 

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ParityFactory

What exactly does ParityFactory do?  

ParityFactory is a food specific warehouse management (WMS) and production management system. The software is a tool for food and beverage manufacturers to manage the physical operations of their plant, and further, to automate the data management process. This is done through the use of a relatively common technology, although one that is still surprisingly underutilized in the food space: scanning and barcoding. Traditionally, food and beverage manufacturers have managed their tracing data and inventory balances with paper or spreadsheets.  

In a ParityFactory plant, raw materials are tagged with a barcode the moment they enter the facility. With just a simple barcode, the system can track the material at every step of production, whether it’s moved to storage, processed into finished goods, or shipped out. This generates a real-time view of all the inventory on hand, a comprehensive tracing chain, and makes detailed, accurate production planning possible. Customers find they have dramatically reduced inventory variances and a more efficient manufacturing process. 

History 

ParityFactory was founded in Seattle, WA over 30 years ago, but if you took a look at the company today you’d never know it. Despite its long history in food and beverage, the company has more the attitude of a new and growing software firm, and that’s because the last few years have been full of huge changes for the once tiny business. 

Decades ago, the Seattle-based company designed accounting systems for Alaskan fish processors. However, as Tyler Marshall, President at ParityFactory says, “Working in the food and beverage space for so long, we came to realize that there were plenty of companies that were doing accounting well, but very few who offered a comprehensive solution for managing inventory and tracing.” With this realization, the company pivoted towards designing solutions to manage the physical operations on the plant floor roughly 7 years ago. The result was their current offering and namesake of the organization, ParityFactory. 

Growth and Future Plans 

The company’s current CEO, Sean Clemmons, took his position in January 2019 and since then the company has accelerated its growth and added new clients across North America. That growth has brought opportunities to invest in the creation of new and exciting solutions to problems faced in the food and beverage industry. During the two years under Sean’s leadership, ParityFactory has released several extensions to its core platform.  

In 2020 alone, numerous new products have been launched under the ParityFactory brand, including a suite of tools aimed to help manufacturers who work directly with growers receive their product in bulk, automate payment calculation, and get quicker insight into grading and quality data. The company released their latest offering, the ParityFactory inventory Portal, in late 2020. Designed for those who run third-party logistics operations, the Inventory Portal allows users to provide their clients direct access into how much inventory they have stored, with data automatically pulled from the ParityFactory core platform. 

Investment into new products is slated to continue well into 2021 and beyond, as Sean Clemmons puts it, “Many of the challenges processors face are consistent across the industry, but every operation is a little different. With each new client we sign, we discover new problems to solve and new possibilities for innovation.” 
For more information on the ParityFactory platform, visit their website at www.parityfactory.com or reach out to parityfactory@paritycorp.com

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African American Farmers of California (AAFC)

“We need to make sure African-American farmers are visible because, for a long time, we’ve been invisible. We, as a people, have played a tremendous part in agriculture throughout the U.S.”  – William Scott Jr., AAFC President

According to the 2018-2019 California Agricultural Statistics Review through the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), California is home to over sixty nine thousand farms. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2017 Agriculture Census noted that, of those farms, only 429 were run by African American producers–operating over seventy five thousand acres. That is barely over a half percent of farms in the state–and less than two percent nationally, due to historically discriminatory practices within the USDA causing black farmers to lose 80 percent of their farmland from 1910 to 2007, from lack of access to loans or insurance needed to sustain their businesses.

A non-profit in California’s Central Valley hopes to combat that historical discrimination by empowering African-American growers to provide their communities with fresh, wholesome food.

“We take care of the land, the land will take care of us. Then we’ll take care of the community.” – William Scott Jr., AAFC President

Tractor tilling soil at the AAFC demonstration farm.

Tucked behind Kearney Park on the outskirts of Fresno, California, at the intersection of California and Fair, a sixteen acre farming demonstration site serves as the homebase for African American Farmers of California (AAFC.) Established in 1997, founders William Scott Jr. and Ken Grimes started by doing door-to-door outreach for members in the nearby west Fresno neighborhoods. In the past twenty years, they’ve built a community of over twenty farmers to support current growers through agro-tourism, farmers markets, and educational awareness, while training future farmers in operating equipment and basic farming skills. To further this cause, they have begun the process of becoming a healthy soils demonstration project in collaboration with the Fresno State UC Extension, which will qualify them for additional equipment to manage the land, train their members, and more efficiently grow their crops under the program’s grant funding.

“If we can get the message across about supporting a variety of farmers, and get more people interested and taking quality food to where it should be, then I’ve done my job. This is what I was born to do.” – William Scott Jr., AAFC President

Line of crops at the AAFC demonstration farm.

Scott and Grimes have been pivotal in reintroducing Southern specialty crops, which have long been a part of the traditional African-American diet, into the central valley. These crops grow seasonally, with summers bringing black-eyed, crowder, and purple hull peas, okra, turnips, and tomatoes, while winters serve up mustard, turnip, and collard greens, spinach, broccoli and carrots. The AAFC hopes to provide their growers with an outlet to distribute these crops via the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program, next year.

If you are interested in attending their monthly meetings‒starting at 5:30pm every second Tuesday‒you can reach out to their Vice President, LaKeishia Martin, at africanamericanfarmersofca@gmail.com. Follow them on Facebook to stay tuned for their field day showcase next year.

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Company Profile: MycoKind

MycoKind LLC was incorporated in 2018 when two PhDs talked about changing the world through fungi. A food scientist, a plant pathologist, and a food systems analyst ate dinner over Korean BBQ and the kindness that grows by culturing community kickstarted the fungal venture.

They wanted to take a look into changing the food industry by tapping into novel methods of growing products. “We are not trying to create new supply chains or build completely new infrastructures. Rather, we intend to tap into science and tradition to slightly adapt something that exists (ie fermentation).”

The most significant milestone up to date was having a five course four beverage mushroom themed popup dinner with more than 50 guests and some VIPs. Some of their favorite accomplishments are different conversations and interviews among their colleagues including Daryl of BeerTalkNow, Ilona of Ktchnrebel, Lichen of Asians in America, Adam of My Food Job Rocks, Chef Gigi of Sunday Suppers, Lana of Food Tank, Alex of Cultured Meats and The Future of Food, and Leneia of Artisan Restaurant Collection. Each conversation was fun and engaging.

Some challenges that they face are that they “have a lot of capabilities that are within [their] company and that means a lot of IP. It is just difficult to figure out where to start and which idea is fitting for product market fit.”

Their future plans are to be able to collaborate with more brands, organizations, institutions, and communities to increase the accessibility of fungal knowledge. “Through culturing community, we hope that our kindness grows too.”

Something they wish more people knew about their industry: “Fungi have a lot of applications that we are starting explore in more novel methods. The possibilities have opened up more discussions on fermentation, mycoremediation, health and wellness. “

Check them out on social media @mycokindllc on Facebook or Instagram, @mycokind on Twitter and LinkedIn, or their website: https://mycokind.com/ as they plan to figure out how to host forays, popup meals, and classes.

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She Built This City: Demi Knight Clark

She Built This City logo

STEM careers are experiencing low employment due to an industry skills gap. A whitepaper by Alexander Mann Solutions suggests, “While there is overwhelming evidence that women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields, the reasons go beyond traditional stereotyping. Women may ‘shy’ away from these careers for both cultural and educational reasons, while a lack of role models doesn’t help the cause.”

She Built This City founder, Demi Knight Clark

Demi Knight Clark established She Built This City (SBTC) in December 2019 in Charlotte, South Carolina to address the labor shortage by closing the gender equity gap in construction and manufacturing. SBTC does that through scholarship-based trade
workshops, camps & clubs – hitting the “life cycle” of generations: exposing the trades to girls as young as nine, and women at any age.

SBTC is proud to have momentum thanks to donors who saw their passion and mission – such as Lowe’s Home Improvement, Novocure, and private donors – in January. “We’ve seen our “proof of concept” camps – Explorer Girls and Builder Girls Club have wait lists; and Women@Work Trade Circle & Expo events host over 200 women and male allies in Charlotte.”

She Built This City, Explorer Girls class working with representatives from Lowes.

SBTC’s program is built upon three foundational pillars. The Explorer Girls pillar is a weekend workshop for girls ages nine to twelve, providing foundational math skills, an understanding of scientific theory, and basic power tool etiquette with the opportunity to explore. Their Farm to Architecture unit has been a success by combining the necessary skills with technology. The Builder Girls Club is an in- school program for middle school girls. They spend their last period working on bigger concepts and
projects. SBTC is not targeting high school ages due to the saturation of Career Technical Education (CTE) courses available to this age group. The third pillar is the Women@Work Trade Circle that offers the “power of many” for a consortium of professional women in the construction and manufacturing industries. They also offer apprenticeships to women looking to change careers or networking for those looking to continue to climb within the industry.

SBTC is proud to partner with the following organizations: SEED20, Yale SOM, United Rentals, Duncan Parnell, NAHB, Novacure, and National Association of Women in Construction. They also participate in local events, like Women in Trade Expo, Homeowners Association Women in Building Week, and Rail Lines Classroom America.

She Built This City, Explorer Girls class working with representatives from Lowes.

Clark says that her favorite accomplishment with SBTC is giving girls the confidence for these fields. “By far, it’s seeing the ‘light bulb’ moment come on in girls who have never held a power tool or equipment. They go from being semi-terrified or at least intimidated, to saying, ‘GIMME ANOTHER ONE!’ after drilling their first screw with a power driver. It’s empowering, and it’s definitely affecting that we’re creating ideas in their heads of other things they feel confident to build or spearhead.” She states that the biggest challenge SBTC faces is funding: connecting with the right people to support these programs.

SBTC has a three year plan to scale to five major cities with all three pillars of programming, and hit their first $10M in funding by year three. “It’s the kind of impact we have to strive for if we want to change the statistics shorter-term in the industries. That helps us scale to at least 30,000 women and girls!”

Clark wishes more people knew what the construction and manufacturing industries had to offer in leadership potential. “I’ve always loved the fact that if there’s a job to do, anyone can raise their hand, just like that little girl with a power driver – and say, ‘gimme another one!’ You can rise through the ranks very quickly by taking on tasks that are short-handed or short-staffed, or challenges needing to be solved. It’s how I shaped my career in the industry. So those light bulb moments are prevalent – we need to showcase them and onboard the next generation.”

Please visit their website for more information and a full list of future events http://www.SheBuiltThisCity.org.

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Profile – McCann Asset Management

McCann Asset Management

Martin McCann is passionate about retirement. During his 25 years as a financial planner, he has seen clients, friends, and family members experience their golden years in very different ways. The people who plan their retirements in advance tend to enjoy active, fulfilling post-career lives. Those who did not take the time to plan end up struggling financially, and fearing overpriced long term care expenses. Martin realized how important it is to help others successfully invest for their futures, which is why his professional goal is to deliver long term guaranteed streams of retirement income for all of his clients. 

Martin began his financial planning career in Lodi, California in 1994. Only nine months into his career at American Express (previously IDS Financial Services and currently Ameriprise Advisors), he was promoted to Training Manager and relocated to Fresno, California where he continued to excel in the industry. Martin was promoted again only three years into his career, but this time to Field Vice President. Shortly thereafter, Martin transitioned to Prudential, where he was ranked the #1 manager in the world. 

Full disclosure, I have known Martin professionally and personally since his time with Prudential. I have always considered him kind and very knowledgeable about his industry, but I did not realize how accomplished he was until we spoke for this article. I worked with Martin towards the beginning of his 18 year career with One America, where he accumulated most of his certifications: LUTC, Chartered Financial Consultant, and Certified Financial Planner, to name a few. His clients always spoke well of him, and I have entrusted him with some of my own retirement needs. 

In November, 2018 Martin founded McCann Asset Management, where he is currently the president and an acting financial advisor. He attributes his passion for retirement to his personal and professional experiences with the stock market crashes in the first decade of this century. The kind of instability he witnessed made him want to help others find long term financial security for themselves and their loved ones. Martin helps his clients determine how much money they need in order to support their lifestyle and long term care needs for themselves, their relatives, and their dependents after retirement. 

McCann Asset Management specializes in small businesses, ideally between 10 and 300 employees, although they will happily serve businesses of any size. The goal is to help employees plan for their retirement while also protecting the business owner from retirement lawsuits. Martin developed his own retirement software to best assess retirement needs and guarantee them for life. He understands the complexities of providing these services for his clients and your employees, and he has success in defending employer’s rights. Martin was recently an expert witness regarding 401ks and won 21/21 accusations in the class action lawsuit. This success got Martin featured in various law journals throughout the country.