Quakers & Chocolate - Robert Ashton
I’ve just returned from the Quaker Study Centre at Woodbrooke in Birmingham. It was established by chocolate entrepreneurs Sir George Cadbury and John Rowntree in 1903. I was not there for one of the many Quaker courses, but as a social entrepreneur now involved with charitable trust Power to Change.
Woodbrooke was the wisely chosen venue for a two day briefing on the new Peer Broker initiative. This will fund community business leaders to provide specific support to those fortunate enough to win a Power to Change grant for their community business.
It was Sir George Cadbury who established Bournville here in 1879. This was a new village constructed to house workers in the family’s new chocolate factory. Housing here was always affordable, and education facilities and other services we take for granted today, were provided for those that lived and worked here.
Cadbury was paternalistic and philanthropic. The family became wealthy from the chocolate business, but invested in and respected those who worked for the family firm. This was unusual in an era of poor pay, poor housing and worker exploitation. But as Quakers they believed in treating people fairly.
Each one of the Power to Change Peer Brokers is a social entrepreneur, leading a successful community business. The resonance with the Cadbury story was strong, and over the two days I was reassured by the extent to which community business and the Quaker movement are built on those same values of truth, peace, simplicity and equality.
Sir George Cadbury was also the man behind the creation of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, launching the brand in 1904 in response to the growing interest in Swiss milk chocolate. As an entrepreneur he knew that doing good was not enough; you also need to be quick to innovate and follow market trends. As we all know, pleasing customers has to be the starting point for any enterprise journey.