Member Story: Peace by Chocolate

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This article was originally published February 2019 and has been updated.

For Tareq Hadhad, chocolate is a symbol of hope and happiness.

To date, the 27-year-old has met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former US President Barack Obama, spoken at several events, and recently passed his Canadian Citizenship exam.

But it wasn’t always this way for Tareq and his family.

For 30 years, his family ran a successful chocolate factory that distributed across the Middle East, based in Damascus, Syria’s capital city. But when a bombing destroyed the family’s factory in 2012, the Hadhads left everything behind to flee to a refugee camp in Lebanon.

“After three years in the refugee camp, I came to Canada in 2016 with my family looking for an opportunity to start our lives again,” Tareq explains. “We were so lucky to settle in Antigonish, Nova Scotia—a place of warm-hearted people with a love for small businesses and startups.”

A few weeks after settling in Antigonish, the Hadhads wondered if they could carry on their family tradition of making chocolate to give back to the community. They started by making small batches and selling them at the local farmers’ market. The reaction that followed was extraordinary.

“We received so much support because we landed in a community where everyone believes that the success of the individual is the success of the community,” he says. “The people of Antigonish really got behind us in those early days. I think that if we landed in a big city, it would have taken us 10 or 20 years to reach the place we’ve reached in three years in Atlantic Canada.”

One of those early supporters was East Coast Credit Union. The Hadhads connected with the credit union in the hopes that they could expand from the farmers’ market and build a small business called Peace by Chocolate. They knew they’d need to make an investment in materials and make sure that they could maintain their cashflow in order to survive that critical first year in business.

“The credit union believed in us since the beginning and truly wanted to help,” says Tareq. “They saw our vision and potential for growth—the only hinderance was the cashflow. That was the barrier between us and our potential, but the credit union supported us.”

Since getting their start, Tareq and the Hadhad family have seen Peace by Chocolate grow from one employee to fifty-five. Their products are sold by over 400 vendors across Canada and the business ships hundreds of thousands of products every month. With plans to export to the United States in 2020, Tareq and the Peace by Chocolate team have big dreams for the company.

“We’re on the road to becoming one of the top five chocolate companies in Canada in the next five years,” he says. “Every day is a celebration and we’re working really hard to achieve that goal. What I’ve learned through this journey is that if you’re faced with a challenge you have two choices: You can both complain and let it set you back—or you can dig in and find solutions. You can seek out the right people with the right advice to guide you.”

The credit union continues to be a partner as Peace by Chocolate expands their operations and works with national distributors. But when Tareq thinks about the future of the company, his goals are not just about profits. Today he travels across Canada sharing his story, connecting and supporting new arrivals to Canada, and helping others start their businesses. Peace by Chocolate has also pledged that five per cent of all profits will be donated to the Peace on Earth Society—an organization that gives funds to peace building projects around the world. And starting early in 2020, Tareq and the Hadhads will start the Peace of Mind Campaign, directing proceeds from specific products to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“We got a hand when we came here and now it’s our job to give a hand to someone else,” Tareq explains. “If there are one hundred other businesses like ours, imagine the impact they can make.”