The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur


The term “social entrepreneurship” is paradoxical. How can an entrepreneur, whose objective is taking a risk to earn profits, engage in social work without compromising the latter?

Turns out, if your business model is effective, nothing has to be sacrificed. Earlier this year, Ynzo van Zanten from Tony’s Chocolonely gave a short presentation about the company’s business model at UCU. The talk was successful, and not just because of the free chocolate that was handed out in return for attendance (though that didn’t hurt).
As a social entrepreneurship start-up, profit for Tony’s is a means of pursuing another goal: raising awareness towards slavery in the chocolate industry. Like other initiatives, their motivation comes from the social aspect (the original reason they began the business in the first place), whereas the entrepreneurship is a necessity in order to pursue the goal. Perhaps it is this passion that makes Tony’s as successful as it is. As consumers, it’s easy to trust that Tony’s is a reliable social initiative, so you feel better about purchasing a bar of Tony’s as opposed to other chocolate.

“What better way to communicate the inequality of the trade than by calling attention to it with every bite?”

Apart from the social aspect, there’s no question that Tony’s offers chocolate flavors are superior to that of other brands. People like quality, and are often willing to forgo something cheap for something more expensive — given that it is undisputedly superior. After all, how common is it to find carrot cake flavoured white chocolate — that tastes as good as it sounds?

“Our Tony, Eva thinks of new tastes together with the new product developer and the marketing team,”  says Sophie.

“We always say: money should not be the goal. It should be a method to reach your goal.”

“At the office in Amsterdam, we have a small chocolate kitchen where Eva tries a lot of new combinations every week.” A small-scale, personalized set-up ensures that testers at Tony’s can be creative and produce flavors of quality that people will appreciate.

In addition to quality, effectiveness comes with bold, new business ideas, that experiences employees have to offer. In the past couple of years, Tony’s has surpassed the sales of other chocolate brands in Holland, to the point where that bright bar of chocolate can be spotted at most grocery stores. The company’s success can be attributed not only to the quality of the chocolate but also to the way in which the chocolate is marketed to the public.

“Henk Jan (our CEO) bought himself in and as an experienced marketer he brought the company to where it is now,” says Sophie.

Tony’s is unique in that it promotes fair trade, not only in its practices but also through packaging and advertising. Each bar is broken into unequal pieces, symbolizing unequal practices of the industry.

“What better way to communicate the inequality of the trade than by calling attention to it with every bite?”, the company articulates. The bright packaging also captures attention, at the least, enticing those who wish to indulge.

Thanks to its success in Holland, Tony’s has expanded to the US, opening its first international office in Portland, Oregon. In the future, the company plans to open the likes of a chocolate factory that welcomes visitors who would like to learn more.
Tony’s is one of the many successful social entrepreneurship initiatives. The number is only growing. Another business model that many of you might have heard about is Tom’s. By purchasing a pair of shoes, a new pair of shoes is given to a child in developing countries.
“We always say: money should not be the goal,” says Sophie. “It should be a method to reach your goal.” This is what makes a social entrepreneurship successful.


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