What do helping others and chocolates have in common?
Many promising scientific studies have found that both can boost the mood and improve heart health. Dalareich “Dal” Polot wanted the best of both worlds so she co-founded Dalareich Food Products which started Ginto Chocolates, a social enterprise creating artisanal chocolate goods while supporting cacao growers in Bohol in producing high-quality raw materials.
Dalareich is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 women program in 2011, an initiative empowering female entrepreneurs around the world. Dubbed as “Bohol’s Chocolate Princess,” the 34-year old go-getter girlboss from Tagbilaran City, Bohol has made herstory as she once again captured the esteem of the business world and the development sector, both locally and abroad, by being the first ever Filipina to receive the Goldman Sachs & Fortune Global Women Leaders Award at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in California, USA.
In this summit that brought together a community of inspiring women in business, philanthropy, education, sports, and the arts, along with select public servants, Dalareich rubbed elbows with fellow female trailblazers, as other notable women leaders and personalities such as Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Roz Brewer, TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett, AMD CEO Lisa Su, New York Stock Exchange president Lynn Martin, TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas, and philanthropist Melinda French Gates, among many others graced the event.
On the same day of this iconic milestone, she was also honored as the “Grand Winner – InLife Young Shero of the Year” at the Asia CEO Awards 2022. These newest accolades will be added to the long list of acknowledgements and achievements that the young entrepreneur has received over the years.
“[Goldman Sachs program] really changed my life… I was the youngest cohort in that batch, but I didn’t only learn about business but also about life,” Dalareich shared to the audience in one of the conferences in the summit. She expresses nothing but gratitude whenever she accepts them as they testify to her prolific career, but what’s more important for her is making sure that her success would translate into making an impact in the lives of her less fortunate kababayans.
Before the awards ceremony, she mentioned in a social media post that the award comes with a grant which she will use in her community projects. “After the devastation of the Super Typhoon in the Philippines last December, (Odette) it was so heartbreaking to see the communities that were totally devastated… they lost their houses. That’s the project I’m doing, the recovery of the livelihood of the women farmers, specifically in my island, Bohol,” Dalareich explained in the conference.
A Chocolatier’s Childhood
Dalareich’s father Ricardo was a tricycle driver and her mother Elsa labored as a street sweeper while she also sold chocolate candies and tablea on the side in 1994. Tablea are tablets of ground-up cacao beans heated and combined with water or milk to make a traditional Filipino chocolate drink. Elsa learned how to make them from her mother Tomasa who also sold tablea in their neighborhood.
A politician named Doloreich Dumaluan was campaigning when he knocked on the Polots’ house and was greeted by Dalareich’s first cries. He requested that she be named after him since he thought it was propitious. Since they were really poor and the name sounded like “dollar rich,” her parents were pretty hesitant. Dumaluan won that election and asked the Polots to bring baby Dalareich to his victory party, saying she brings good luck. Elsa did not go, stating it was inappropriate for them to be in the company of wealthy and influential people.
Growing up with a lot of financial struggles made Dalareich a lot more motivated than she might have been otherwise. “I saw the hard work of my parents to give the five of us a good life and to send us all to college. I told myself that one day, I can also help them and help other women by giving them opportunities,” she shared in an interview with Inquirer. She helped her mother make and sell tablea so that she and her siblings Angelah, Jessa, Renel, and Irene could afford to study.
After Dalareich earned a degree in computer engineering in 2009 with the income from the tablea they sold, she created an outsourcing business that built websites for clients. But she found that being a chocolatier gave her more fulfillment so she enhanced their chocolate products by altering their design and packaging. She also created a website and a Facebook page to increase the shop’s reach. She also altered the brand’s packaging and design. These were Dalareich’s touch of innovation that changed the course of their lives forever – making their family’s sideline into a booming business in the region.
Dal’s Recipe for Success
In 2013, she won the Young Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp (YWEB), sponsored by the United States Embassy in Manila and Spark! Philippines. Around this time, their tablea operation began to expand as she capitalized on the cash prize from YWEB. They were able to close supply deals with big clients and the online shop has been receiving orders from overseas Filipino workers as well as locals from Korea, the US, Australia, Canada, and Singapore. However, Dalareich never gave up on the idea of making her own chocolates with local cacao. She studied YouTube tutorials to learn, but every time she tried to make chocolates, she was unsuccessful. In 2014, she learned about a chocolate-making course in Belgium, but she realized there were two issues: the course expected students to have a degree in food technology, and she couldn’t afford the tuition or the airfare to Belgium.
Due to her experience in the family’s tablea business and an inspiring letter outlining her aspirations to develop world-class chocolates in Bohol, the prerequisite for a food technology degree was waived. She also received a full scholarship, which covered all expenses—including travel and lodging. “I’m so proud na sa Philippines ako galing and my business is tablea. When I introduced myself to them, sabi ko talaga I’m from the Philippines and a pure Boholena,” she shared how she always expressed her Filipino pride in Belgium in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
How cacao beans from all over the world can yield flavors with vastly diverse characteristics while going through the same process and using the same tools was one of her most memorable takeaways from her classes at the Cacaolab of the Ghent University. She claimed that Bohol cacao is among the finest so when she got back to the Philippines, she was determined to practice her learnings right away. But studying how to make chocolates in the cold weather of Belgium posed some challenges in implementing them in the Philippines’ warm climate as fat blooms usually happen. Through continuous testing and development, Dalareich was able to create high-quality chocolates.
She then established Ginto Chocolates, a social enterprise that produces bean-to-bar chocolates using locally grown cacao from smallholder farmers in Bohol. They made Filipino-style pralines with fillings: calamansi, coconut and other native delicacies.
The first in Bohol and one of only seven chocolate factories in the Philippines, Dalareich Chocolate House, which provides employment opportunities for housewives and part-time students opened in 2017. Visitors and tourists can also learn about cacao and tablea at the factory. The Dalareich 100% Unsweetened Chocolate won the gold award from the London-based Academy of Chocolate in 2019.
Bohol is now anticipating an increase in production of tablea and other chocolate products following the five-month rehabilitation of the province’s cacao trees after thousands of trees were hit by Typhoon Odette last December.
Dalareich had recommended a livelihood recovery initiative through cocoa rehabilitation and production for their rural women farming communities to farmers’ associations and cooperatives in three Bohol towns. Once these initiatives prove to be successful, they will be replicated in other towns.
Uplifting the cacao industry and the farmers has always been close to her heart. She purchases cacao seeds from farmers for a higher price of P120 to P160 for dried and fermented beans in order to help them make more money. Cacao seeds are typically sold at P35 per kilogram for wet beans in the local market. She also had to engage growers in Davao as Bohol farmers were unable to meet her demand of 63,700 kilos each month.
“We will be on our feet again.” A firm believer of the law of attraction, she remains optimistic for the future. “This time, more empowered and resilient to face future uncertainties because of people like you who are so willing and relentless to offer a helping hand,” she manifested.