Rick Boosey, the president and founder of Kyya Chocolate, faced a full and engaged classroom when he spoke to students about entrepreneurship in ECON 3053 – Economics for Elementary Teachers – at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
As he broke rich, dark chocolate up into bite-sized pieces and began to pass around samples, Boosey shared his entrepreneurial story of how Kyya, a farm-to-bar chocolate company, began and the journey he and his family have taken to create an ever-evolving brand.
Growing up, Boosey spent his youth traveling around the world. As his dad was promoted at work, the family would move to a new location. He spent his adult life in the corporate world working for industry giants such as Microsoft and Dell. Then four years ago, he traveled to Uganda with a nonprofit to help build a chicken farm. The nonprofit wanted to introduce chicken farming to communities to combat malnutrition and hunger. Per Boosey, just two eggs a day can end malnutrition for a child. For a lifelong traveler, the trip was a life-changing experience.
The charitable excursion introduced Boosey to Ugandans’ way of life. He saw orphanages, hungry families, cacao (cocoa) farmers and the “coyotes” or middlemen, who lengthened the supply chain and increased the price of chocolate.
As a father of four adopted children, the Ugandan orphanages moved him. The entrepreneur saw how the cacao or chocolate business could improve the lives for Ugandan families. It could support orphanages, strengthen families and create jobs. For this family man nearing retirement, the Uganda trip reenergized him.
“It is time to get in the game,” Boosey said.
After his return to the United States, Boosey spent six months learning about cacao and how to transform it into chocolate, failing and then trying it again. After spending $5,000 on equipment and endless experimenting on cacao fermentation and chocolate extraction, Boosey approached a friend who owns a coffee shop. The friend purchased $50 worth of product and Kyya Chocolate was born.
The name Kyya is a play on the Greek word Kaia, which stands for simplicity and purity. Kyya Chocolate’s goal is to purchase beans directly from the farmer, giving farmers and communities a living wage. To better the communities that provide the cacao bean, Kyya donates 10 percent back to community of origin to fund orphanages, fresh water wells, bridges or other community needs.
Larger more commonplace chocolatiers combine sources to produce mega quantities. Kyya creates small batches of chocolate from a single origin and then hand molds each bar.
“Find a niche,” Boosey tells the students. “It’s the only way to be successful as an entrepreneur. Find something someone else has missed.”
Kyya’s niche is creating chocolate from a single source. They import beans from Madagascar, Hispaniola, Uganda, Ecuador, Malawi, Brazil and Sumatra. Each country creates a different flavor note within the bean. For example, Madagascar beans have a hint of cherries and red wine, while beans from Brazil suggest a brownie flavor.
“As an entrepreneur, I keep listening to my customers,” Boosey said.
While the dark chocolate has been a success, customers began to ask for infused chocolate. Soon Kyya began to experiment with flavored chocolates such as chai tea, coffee, coconut and almond, sassafras, pecan, pumpkin spices, chipotle and sea salt with almonds.
“If you play it safe, you’ll never have the fun I’m having,” Boosey said.
Boosey’s “fun” has landed Kyya Chocolate in local grocery stores and coffee shops such as Ozark Natural Foods, The Fresh Market, select Harps Food Stores, Mama Carmen’s Coffee, Onyx Coffee Lab, Arsaga’s Coffee Roasters, Common Grounds and, soon, Whole Foods Market in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Specialty gift stores such as Lewis & Clark Outfitters, Crystal Bridges Museum of America and many more also carry the Kyya branded products.
Learn more about Kyya Chocolate at kyyachocolate.com.
Economics 3053 was developed for students who plan to become teachers in elementary schools. Taught by Rita Littrell, visiting assistant professor, the class acquaints students with basic concepts and functioning of the American economic system.