If you’re going to start a business you might as well produce the two best things on the planet—coffee and chocolate.
Then, you might as well take it a step further and make really good coffee and chocolate that supports communities and environmental sustainability around the world.
You might as well have a business that pays farmers and workers fairly, empowers women, and offers employment to refugees.
What you’d end up with is Triangle Roasters, a wholesale chocolate and coffee company focusing on social consciousness.
The coffee is roasted and the chocolate made from the Globe Dye Works in Frankford.
It’s then sold to different coffee shops and retail outlets in and around Philadelphia.
You can find their products right now at 320 Market in Media and Swarthmore, DiBruno Bros. in Wayne and Philadelphia, Philly Food Works in Sharon Hill, Naked Chocolate in Bucks County, Vault and Vine coffee shop in East Falls, Franny Lou’s Porch in Kensington, and Collingswood, New Jersey, among other places.
You can also order on Triangle’s website. Subscription home delivery is available.
“We don’t have a retail store, so our current focus is on building wholesale and retail partnerships to make our coffee and chocolate available to our community and beyond,” says Joy Zernhelt, who lives in Media and is one of Triangle’s four owners.
Triangle Roasters really got going three years ago when they moved into their manufacturing space.
The owners bought their first roaster and chocolate equipment that got them started with their own personal fund. They improvised their own equipment, and as they continue to grow they have relied on some investments from friends, family and a personal investor.
Meet the owners
“We’re two married couples who have been friends for a long time and eventually realized that we’d make great business partners.”
There’s Mikey and Jeana Master and Joy and Joe Zernhelt.
The equal partners are in their mid- to late 30s. None have a formal business background but have relied on their life and work experience to prepare them for a successful business launch.
Mikey and Jeana were in international development, spending time in Nicaragua and Indonesia. While there, their work led them to connect with coffee and cocoa farmers.
Joe is a technology consultant, helping companies realize their potential through digital transformation.
He’s also managed some coffee shops.
“We thought about tinkering in coffee shops and doing something that is really socially conscious, like hiring people with challenges, people coming out of incarceration.”
Mikey and Jeana wanted to help the refugee population in Indonesia and provide work for refugees.
They all liked the idea of using business to support and sustain communities internationally.
“Business is a way for us to be profitable and then use our profit to help the people that work for us, whether that’s people we’re supporting through products that we’re purchasing … or whether it’s giving our staff growth opportunities,” Zernhelt says.
Their first employee is a part-timer from Cameroon who’s learning to be a chocolatier like Mikey who learned the trade by reading, researching and connecting with chocolate makers who have shared their knowledge publicly, and finally a lot of trial and error!
Transparency is a big part of their operation, offered at a time when consumers are keen to know where their food is coming from.
“We love sharing about where our coffee and chocolate is from, where we source it and how we know that the farmers are being paid well for their part in the process,” Zernhelt says.
The owners have carefully selected suppliers that practice sustainability and fair trade.
That can mean women-owned farms, worker-owned co-ops, coffee grown on sustainable land with minimal environmental impact, and living wages for workers.
They’re looking to increase production and distribution in the region.
“We’d love to be known locally as a household name in coffee and chocolate,” Zernhelt says.
Eventually they hope to hire more people and create retail opportunities for others.
Zernhelt says Triangle Roasters is doing well and hopeful about the future.
“It’s fun doing something meaningful with people you care about,” she says.