Photo above: Tony's Chocolonely's Chief Chocolate Officer Henk Jan Beltman

One of the Netherlands’ best loved chocolate brands, Tony’s Chocolonely, ‘wants to make the world a little bit sweeter’. For Chief Chocolate Officer Henk Jan Beltman it’s time to make that mission international. That’s what Tony’s is doing with the Orange Trade Mission Fund and the Dutch Good Growth Fund, both initiatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The funds help Dutch businesses achieve their international ambitions.

'I want to pass the “rocking chair test”. When I’m in the old people’s home looking back on my life, I want to be able to say I’ve made the world a little bit sweeter.'

'If you want to change the inequalities in the chocolate industry, you have to take responsibility at the start of the production chain. We’re working towards 100% slavery-free chocolate and hope to inspire others. We’re doing this by raising awareness and setting a good example. By developing a profitable business model in West Africa, we hope to inspire other chocolate producers to trade fairly. We want to convince the chocolate industry’s main players that things can be done differently. We looked at whether we could make a go of it in the US. And the answer was yes, but we could do with a bit of help. That’s why we applied to the Orange Trade Mission Fund.'

Slavery-free

Right now, more than one million people are cocoa slaves. Journalist Teun (Tony) van de Keuken was determined to do something to change this. In November 2005 Tony brought the first (lonely!) slavery-free chocolate bar onto the market. Tony’s Chocolonely was born. Under Henk Jan Beltman’s leadership, the brand now wants to take its chocolate – and its mission – to the US, where the world of chocolate is dominated by big players like Mars, Hershey’s and Nestlé.

'I’m pleasantly surprised at what the ministry and the Dutch embassies and consulates in the US can do for us. The business part has to come from us, and that makes sense. But the ministry’s network and knowledge are more extensive than I thought. This means we can engage with major US stakeholders – like a supermarket offering fair trade products – in a completely different way than if we’d gone it alone.'

'On top of support we receive through the Orange Trade Mission Fund, we’re also receiving financial support through the Dutch Good Growth Fund. The fund exists specifically to help SMEs that are looking to invest in or export to emerging markets and developing countries. We buy our cocoa beans directly from cocoa farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and form long-lasting ties with them. And we pay the farmers a premium on top of the fair trade price.'

'What’s nice is that the Dutch Good Growth Fund doesn’t focus on the means, but on the end. Being successful as a business that really makes a difference in the world is more important than making profits. The support from the fund gives us peace of mind and stability because we can worry less about costs, which helps us achieve our goals. We’re far from finished. The UK is next on our list.'

Extra little legg-up

Maurits van Os, Orange Trade Mission Fund project director, says ‘Tony’s ambitions very much match our own. The campaign for 100% slavery-free cocoa plantations is a joint struggle. Compared with big business, Dutch SMEs often have more difficulty launching international operations and getting them to prosper. Their limited resources and knowledge often make it hard for them to make the right contacts and get their foot in the door.'

'Through our embassies and consulates across the world we can give them the extra little leg-up they need to make their international dreams a reality. Our embassies and consulates have lots of expertise in helping SMEs in particular go international. Together, we look at how we can best showcase them – for instance, at trade fairs or through participation in an economic mission. We can also match Dutch companies with local businesses, research centres or cultural institutions that we have connections with or that we’re working with on projects.'

Orange Trade Mission Fund

Every year, the Orange Trade Mission Fund helps 10 Dutch SMEs to achieve their international ambitions. The fund offers practical help with things like making contact with local companies. It has significant knowledge of local markets and an extensive network that SMEs can make use of. It is an initiative of ING Bank, KLM, MKB-Nederland (the Dutch confederation of SMEs) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in conjunction with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.

Helping Dutch businesses

The Netherlands is – and always has been – an enterprising country. Lots of Dutch businesses and organisations are active in many different countries and make money there. Much of the Netherlands’ prosperity is the result of Dutch businesses’ international success.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports Dutch entrepreneurship by bringing businesses, organisations and government bodies into contact with one another. And by preparing agreements with governments and international organisations and finding strategic niches for Dutch businesses, knowledge institutions and industries. Diplomats know the laws, rules, people and culture of a country. The ministry uses this knowledge to help the Dutch private sector.

And established networks are available for businesses that see opportunities in foreign markets. Businesses can also make use of a range of grants and government programmes, like the Orange Trade Mission Fund and the Dutch Good Growth Fund. There’s also the ‘NL exporteert’ (NL exports) app, which acts as a guide for new and experienced entrepreneurs who want to spread their international wings. The app offers fast, simple and up-to-date country-specific information, as well as access to local networks and advice.