From time to time, we have the opportunity to share the stories of women in our Advancing Women Hero series. Meet Advancing Women Hero Fiona Harrison who owns Chocolate on Purpose, a 100% indigenous women-owned business. Fiona is a woman who has forged ahead and smoothed the way for the women that come after her.
We know that the wisdom and experience that women bring to leadership and business are essential for a flourishing and sustainable society. And, to quote the words of the 27th Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard, “I’m offended by the lack of women in positions of leadership and the way those that do make it are treated.” Therefore, it is our privilege to honour these women and showcase their accomplishments. With thanks to our partner, Femeconomy, for contributing these terrific stories.
by Jade Collins, co-founder Femeconomy
Fiona Harrison Owner of Chocolate On Purpose™ started her business after discovering the healing power of Australian native botanicals firsthand. Using ethically sourced, premium ingredients and 100% Aboriginal Owned, Fiona began producing Bush Food Chocolate™ to share the health benefits of aromatic botanicals that have been used by First Nations peoples as food and medicine for thousands of years.
WHY DID YOU START CHOCOLATE ON PURPOSE?
My business has evolved from my passion for both the healing power of Australian native botanicals (which are our food and medicine), and my wish to share our First Nation peoples’ traditional use of these botanicals to deepen respect for our ancient wisdom and culture. It began with my experiencing Complex Post Traumatic Stress disorder after an armed holdup/hostage situation.
Early one morning I woke mid-panic attack and added my newly discovered essential oils into water and splashed my face…. I felt 20% calmer. So I ran the bath and soaked with the oils, and the panic attack subsided, allowing me to get myself and kids ready for the day ahead. I never had another panic attack. I was intrigued a botanical essence could be a healer and wanted to learn more, so I studied Aromatic Therapy and that’s where I met my good friend Jo, who helps me in my business.
We began investigating ways to deliver botanical essences in a way other than massage. We tried Aromatic cooking classes, but not our thing. Then I bought Jo a chocolate making class for her birthday. While making a Black Pepper Chocolate, I looked at Jo and exclaimed, ‘Black Pepper, that’s an essential oil, maybe chocolate’s how we’ll do it!’
We excitedly brainstormed ideas and bounced around names of the Amazonian superfoods we could use. Suddenly I exclaimed, ‘hang on, my ancestors have been using Bush Food (Australian native botanicals) for over 60,000 years and that’s what we’ll use!’ You know that feeling you get when something feels right, deep in your body? Well that’s how it felt for me. I’m sure my Ancestors spoke to me that day because that’s how the business idea came about, that’s how our chocolate range came to be named ‘Bush Food Chocolate™‘ and it’s when we realised our Vision, to share Culture through storytelling with chocolate.
Fast forward through professional Chocolatier and Patisserie training, years of market research and flavour development and here we are today! A mission driven, purpose driven business with the motto, “Yindyamangidyal Marramarra – With Respect and Honour we Create” which is the beating heart of our business.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT OF YOUR BUSINESS?
Our business footprint spans multiple industries facing complex issues, including:
- Indigenous under-representation in the Australian native botanical supply chain
- Modern Slavery
- Unsustainable Palm Oil Farming
- Over 90% of Australians want Reconciliation to be reached… but less than 30% know what to do to achieve it… and
- The rise of the Conscious Consumer who desires: authentic Indigenous experiences, niche food products and premium indulgences that make a difference to the world.
Chocolate On Purpose™ create delicious chocolate experiences infused with ancient wisdom and a mission. Through storytelling with our chocolate we share Indigenous culture and deepen respect for our ancient wisdom and shine a light on the way forward in the reconciliation journey towards justice and healing.
Our contribution to solving these issues:
- We source Australian native botanicals from Indigenous farmers wherever possible.
- While sharing the traditional use of the botanicals…. we leverage segues… to discuss the bigger Indigenous issues.
- We source sustainably grown, palm oil-free chocolate, from enterprises invested in eradicating adult and child slavery
- I’m learning Wiradjuri Language & weave this into storytelling to share culture
Our solutions create impact:
- For every extra production run increased automation can provide, we can increase our buy from Indigenous farmers by 10 kilos, contributing to their increased participation in the Australian native food and botanical supply chain.
- In 2021, our purchase of ethically sourced chocolate contributed to eradicating 25,000 cases of forced child labour; increasing women’s empowerment by training 38% more to become cacao farmers and raising 122,000 cacao farmers above the poverty line.
- Today, by choosing not to use palm oil we helped prevent 300 football fields of forest being burnt to make way for planting of palm trees; prevented 174 tonnes of CO2 releasing into the atmosphere and
- This past hour we saved the lives of 16 orangutans.
Our business model supports equity, self-determination, sustainability and healing. We want our business to be a disruptor, a leader and role-mode through actions of social entrepreneurship. Our business has blended value, doing good and making money. Our legacy will be a chocolate brand for Changemakers.
HOW IS LANGUAGE HELPING YOU CONNECT PEOPLE TO YOUR BUSINESS AND TO RECONCILIATION?
Languages are living things that connect people to Country, culture and ancestors, this is the reason language is so important to First Nations People. I’m studying a Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language & Culture and love to share what I learn. I’ve found so many people, no matter their heritage, find language fascinating because, in it’s truest sense, it tells the story of where we’re from and describes us in relation to our surroundings.
So when I share Wiradyuri language, this interest engages my audience and provides a segue to talk about bigger issues such as Truth Telling about Australia’s black history and the effects of colonisation on my people. These conversations create awareness with the goal of acceptance, and it’s in acceptance that reconciliation will be found.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE BUSH FOODS AND WHY?
I love Rosella Flower (Wyrrung) and Mountain Pepperberry (Mourao), on so many levels. We combine these two bush foods in dark chocolate, and their synergy is sublime. The chocolate and botanicals layer on your palate in an order dicated by your taste buds (which are as unique as your fingerprints), and the experience ends with a marvellous warming of your palate that is so reassuring and grounding. These botanicals are used in traditional healing and I have an amazing story to share about this.
When COVID first hit, the Royal College of Nursing rang to order bags of our Dark Chocolate with Rosella & Mountain Pepperberry for staff on the front line fighting to save the lives of those who had ended up on the respirators. Some weeks later, the devastating effect of the virus on the circulatory system and heart became known, and I was amazed this chocolate flavour had been chosen for those nurses because Rosella was traditionally used as a heart tonifier and Mountain Pepperberry to boost circulation!
I come from an Aromatic Therapy background, so this information was firing my ‘metaphysical’ amazement & I debated whether I should ring and let them know of how wise their choice had been, given the latest learnings. I decided to ring, even though I was a little worried at the response of science to my metaphysical. LOL. I said, “I just wanted to let you know how intuitive your higher-self was in choosing that chocolate flavour for your nurses, given the recent news about the effects of COVID on the heart & circulatory system”… and shared about the ancient Indigenous wisdom in the use of these botanicals.
Well, I needn’t have been concerned, as she was captivated by the sharing and was so excited to tell her staff how clever her higher-self was… and excitedly hung up to do just that. LOL. I love sharing culture through storytelling with chocolate.
You are the female economy. Whether you are a female consumer, business owner or a woman in the workforce, you can create gender equality by choosing female-led brands.
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