Why Lauren and Preston of Markham & Fitz in Bentonville, Arkansas started making chocolate
Lauren Blanco and Preston Stewart jumped in to the bean-to-bar business in 2014 with the desire to make amazing chocolate and celebrate people in the process.
Lauren spent five years working in the non-profit sector facilitating small business development in war-torn countries, where her passion for business and empowerment was formed, accompanied by her first visit to cacao farms. Preston studied chemistry in college, and was looking for a new career path after the aspects of a biotech job began wearing on his extroverted personality. They combined their mutual passion and started their business by making and selling two single-origin chocolate bars under the brand name Hello Cocoa. As they dove into the world of craft chocolate, Preston pursued certifications as a Chocolate Maker and Chocolatier from École Chocolat, and Lauren began to lead the company's operations and branding.
By December 2017, the two had rebranded the company to Markham & Fitz and opened their first dessert bar and cafe alongside their chocolate factory in Bentonville, Arkansas to offer the region a vibrant experience in bean to bar chocolate through drink, dessert and confection. Markham & Fitz currently sources their cacao from Bolivia, Haiti, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic through importing partners, Uncommon Cacao and Enliven Cacao. They use their bean-to-bar chocolate to make all of their confections, pastries and drinks and strive to tell the bean-to-bar story through a variety of food and drink. They prioritize sustainability and ethical sourcing, using recyclable and compostable packaging, organic ingredients, and their factory participates in a zero-waste initiative.