What Shawn Askinosie Taught Us About Meaningful Work
Last week, I had the chance to sit at the feet of and learn from Shawn Askinosie, the founder and CEO of Askinosie Chocolate.
If you're not in the know, Askinosie Chocolate is a small batch, award winning chocolate factory located in Springfield, Missouri, sourcing 100% of their beans directly from farmers. Since they've been around, a lot of good has happened and Shawn was in Nashville to share lessons from his time in the trenches, most of which he details in his book, Meaningful Work: A Quest To Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, And Feed Your Soul.
While we gathered 'round on a stormy night at Barista Parlor, we ate chocolate while Shawn told stories of impact, meaningful work, and using your profession to make a big difference. Here are just some of the core takeaways:
Your story matters.
Shawn began his talk with sharing about grief and the idea that grief is what sows the seeds for joy to grow. Therefore, whatever your story may be - who you are, where you come from, what challenges you've faced, what inspires you - all of this matters as you begin to think about the kind of work or company you want to create.
Embrace the bridge.
Shawn left a successful law practice to make chocolate, but not right out of the gate. He volunteered at a hospital. He made a lot of cupcakes and other baked goods. Then the idea of chocolate hit him out of the blue one day. But the hospital work and amateur kitchen adventures provided a bridge between his law firm and Askinosie Chocolate.
The tough part about the bridge, of course, is that when you're on it, you really just want to get to the other side. You want out of what may seem boring or tiresome at the moment. Resist that urge and instead, embrace where you are. It's the only way to get where you're going.
Start where you are. Like, right where you are. Right now.
Shawn's first chocolate "factory"? His old law office kitchen with (very) rudimentary equipment. He eventually upgraded to professional equipment and a full factory, but not until he'd learned the art of chocolate making. Wherever you are right now, stay put. Cobble together the tools and materials you need to try the next great adventure. Don't keep saying that you'll start once everything is perfect (it never will be). Just start.
Don't forget the vision.
As Askinosie grew, so did the temptation to begin outsourcing some of the company's vision that Shawn birthed. Send someone else halfway around the world to source beans. Don't worry about paying farmers so much. Stop providing meals to schools that the farmers' kids attend. But those all would have disrupted the vision of why the company started. Vision matters at Askinosie, and Shawn and the team make sure everyone remembers it every day.
You don't have to be big to make a big impact.
Askinosie only has 17 full time employees. It's profitable, but not rolling in dough. But they've provided over 1,000,000 meals to kids around the world. They pay farmers 55% better than any other buyer. And they're telling the story of the communities that support them. Any of us - no matter how big our businesses are - can begin to align our work with our heart and give to causes we believe in.
No matter what you do for a living, Shawn's book is worth checking out. And an Askinosie bar or two is worth nibbling on the next time your need to satisfy your sweet tooth.