Bolton School pupils learn about the sweet taste of success
Josephine Fairley, the co-founder of Green & Black's chocolate, told of her "rollercoaster" journey and life lessons learned along the way
Posted by Julian Owen | November 29, 2018 | School life
josephine-fairley, bolton-school-girls-division, green-blacks, businesswoman, entrepreneur

Entrepreneur and award-winning journalist, Josephine Fairley, has been sharing life lessons with pupils at Bolton School Girls’ Division. The co-founder of Green & Black’s recounted her “rollercoaster” journey after being introduced to a busy hall of pupils, staff and members of the local community by aspiring young entrepreneur Katie Riggs in Year 10.

Jo began by saying that she came to Green & Black’s as a chocolate lover with a deep green streak, rather than as a businesswoman. Along with the challenges of entering unknown territory, she discussed her desire to “change the world one square of chocolate at a time”. 

She talked at length about the “extraordinary” response to the Maya Gold bar, and the huge difference that Green & Black’s has made to farming communities in the developing world through Fairtrade, in particular the changes she has seen in the number of children progressing through secondary education. 

Green & Black’s also changed the wider chocolate market. Ultimately, the company was purchased by Cadbury, which in turn was acquired by Mondelez International. The outgoing Director of Cadbury thanked Jo and her husband in his leaving speech for showing them the way with Fairtrade, and more recently ,in 2017, Mondelez announced the Cocoa Life programme, directly influenced by Green & Black’s and helping to provide what farming communities need on a case-by-case basis. 

Jo spoke about what drove her to co-found the company: the fact that the chocolate that would become Green & Black’s was the best she’d ever tasted, and the importance of that conviction in the rest of her journey. She believed that others would think so too if they could just taste it. For the first nine years, no money was spent on traditional advertising; instead, she focused on “getting chocolate on people’s taste buds” through tastings, trade shows, samplings, sending free bars of chocolate to chefs and journalists, and putting bars into luxury spaces such as airline and Eurostar First Class. She highlighted the “huge power in generosity” and said that giving the chocolate away gained them a loyal customer base.  

Her talk was peppered throughout with pieces of business wisdom, including key factors for the success of a business. She brought her talk to a close by offering the young entrepreneurs in the audience her “golden rules for success”, all of which touched upon key moments in the Green & Black’s story. 

She advised them to “be brave and daring” and take the leap of faith needed, be prepared to work hard and be open and willing throughout their whole career, and believe in doing good through business. She also said that being who you really are, being kind and having fun are equally important to success, as is finding a way to deal with stress. She recommended finding a mentor to help keep the passion blazing when things get tough, and finally revealed the best lesson she has learned: the importance of perspective. 

Jo’s talk was part of a series of free, public Enrichment Lectures organised by the Girls’ Division. Details of forthcoming events in the series can be viewed here.