Exploring tough paths: CHOCOLAT


The power ‘E’. Explore. Experiment. Evolve. We can easily track this path in the lives of women entrepreneurs. Why is it that certain situations in life go through this trail and trigger the same response, regardless of whatever the circumstances may be? I guess the first step is actually stepping out and taking the risk, changing your life and behavior (against all odds at times!) and recognizing that this pattern can open the doors to a new life. Life is a journey of self discovery. We go through the path, exploring tough avenues, then we may experiment with options and then finally decide to take the plunge and in the long run, evolve as individuals. Here, I am talking about evolving as professionals or specifically, as women entrepreneurs.

Roughly, this is the route that can be traced in the journey of women professionals form early times. Very often, we have witnessed it in the narratives artistically projected in the realm of cinema. There may or may not be opportunities, but struggles, hard work, strife stalk the woman who dares to be an entrepreneur, for whom the journey is the destination. Like Juliette Binoche in Chocolat.

Such movies are usually inspiration for many things and we can see that they provide different perspectives on what the entrepreneurial-empowerment journey looks like for women all over the world. So, sit back, make yourself comfortable, grab a cola and popcorn and enjoy the experience, as I talk about Chocolat.

The 2000 movie Chocolat has Juliette Binoche, who plays a single mom in France in the 1950s. She arrives in a conservative village, where she opens a chocolate shop, that shakes up the rigid morality of the community. Then she meets another amazing character played by Johnny Depp, who charms her off her feet. At this point, we recall his river Caribbean pirate character, of course! The charming rogue pirate Captain Jack Sparrow and his grand, swashbuckling, nonstop joyride filled with devilish ‘pirate humor’ … He teachers her young daughter and the town all about sensuality, breaking social taboos – and cashing in on what you love. What is surprising is that people thought chocolate was ‘evil’ but that does not deter the woman.

At a time when the term ‘start-up’ was unknown, and women were not independent enough to start off their own ventures, this woman and her daughter opened this chocolate shop, across the street from a church, in a small French village. The shop is open on Sundays – this did not sit well with the townspeople, who were rigid with their interpretation of morality and had deep rooted prejudices. The mother and daughter were not deterred. They focused on their goal of building and growing their business, making products their customers would rave about and fostering vibrant relationships with customers. Eventually, they wooed the skeptics in the village with their kindness, love and of course, it’s their product – delicious, yummy chocolate.

So, Chocolat, is a dreamy, ethereal movie starring Juliet Binoche and Johnny Depp. The story of Vianne Rocher, an expert chocolatier, who sets up a chocolate shop despite great objections of the villagers to do so – and, finally wins them over.

The author Joanne Harris, describes her – “Like a flower she grows towards the light, without thinking or examining the process which moves her to do so”. There are inspirational lessons here. You can build and grow a business by doing what has never been done. Don’t lose sight of your goal when you encounter problems: focus on what you want, instead of what you don’t want.

The business lessons in Chocolat are many too. Her attitude is right. Through Vianne Rocher’s optimism, and strong spirit she wins over the villagers one by one and is able to overcome a hostile environment. She even gives away free chocolate samples, which may have helped. That was her highly successful brand ‘promotion’.

The lesson here is: sometimes your customers need to try your products before they buy. Also, you will see great business benefits when you contribute and become part of the community – no matter how challenging this may seem at first.

Now, there are many movies, both Hollywood and Bollywood, which feature women entrepreneurs, and the storytelling is packed with business lessons.

In this blog I will present movies on female business owners, who walked the untrodden path to reach out to success. The beauty is that they are tales of real-life women, who defied the ordinary and made the extraordinary a norm in their lives. Truly admirable, in the full sense of the word!

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