Today we chat with Phoebe (Fipe) Preuss a co owner of Living Koko. We are in love with their Cacao products that we in Samoa fondly refer to as Koko. So sit back and enjoy our third installment of Meet the Makers and get to know Living Koko.
1. What does your business do?
Living Koko is working closely with local and pacific based organisations to understand the ways in which we can support local communities through ethical trade and event sponsorship. We want to promote the health benefits of Koko (Cacao) and provide an alternative to confectionery based chocolate.
2. How long have you been in business?
Living Koko has been operating for just over a year, our products went online February 2016,
3. What made you start your business?
It’s a long story…but one worth of a read…Co-owners Glen Reiss, Steve Ward and 6 others had signed up for a 6 days adventure down the Black Cat Track in PNG; a little known but arduous WWII track – the scene of some of the fiercest fighting involving Australians
At the end of the first day of the trek, the party had been viciously ambushed. The attack resulted in three porters being killed and a number of the porters and trekkers being maimed and injured. By the end of day 2, having self-evacuated to safety the night before, they had been ushered to a hotel in Port Moresby awaiting an early plane flight back to Australia the next day. Though not sharing any thought at this time, both felt that this was just the beginning of their relationship with PNG.
On returning to PNG 9 months later to visit the porters and their families and seeing firsthand the effects of the attack on some of the communities, particularly in the Salamua area – Steve and Glen began discussing ways to assist in creating sustainable support to those men that 9 months earlier had assisted them.
Speaking to Andrew Natau – one of the most injured and mobility impaired Porters, they realised there may be an opportunity to pursue a cacao bean to table trade with Andrew’s village and possibly the surrounding communities; and through reinvesting in the village, improve their sustainable practices and positively influence the community and help Andrew.
As a result, the guys started looking at ways to bring this idea to practice. Through the ongoing conversations with the PNG community here in Australia including Andrew Natau’s Aunty living in Queensland they are working towards setting these villages up with the infrastructure to ferment, dry and potentially roast the beans prior to shipment. As these discussions were being had, Glen met Phoebe (me). I come from a family of cacao growers and processors.
The stories I heard throughout my life about my grandfather LAULU Sesole John Stanley’s is what got me interested in cacao. One of the early pioneers for cacao in Samoa developing the Lafi7 strand of cacao beans.
Lafi7 was seen as the best cacao bean in the world. A bean that thrived on Samoan soil and could only really be planted from cuttings to retain its pedigree. This bean was so well known, tourists would come from all over the world to see the Lafi7 strand, in the special Lafi7 plot.
I draw my inspiration from his life and achievements. My love for my family and my pacific people is what drives me to continue our work with Living Koko.
The knowledge we are building in Samoa through our relationships with Women in Business Development Inc are now helping us support the PNG cacao project.
4. What makes your business special?
We subscribe to the butterfly effect, where when you make a positive change no matter how little there is a ripple effect.
Together our small team all have a unique set of skills that help us slowly, but surely push this venture forward. We all carry a passion to make a difference during out short time here on earth.
5. What is your favourite thing to do in Samoa?
Do we have to name just one?
Laugh with family, Drink Coconuts, Snorkel at Palolo Deep, Fire Dance on the beach