Sabrina Mustopo: Changing the World 1 Chocolate Bar at a Time

A JUARA Indonesia Spotlight!

At 30, Sabrina Mustopo is the CEO and co-founder of Kakoa Chocolate, a 100% Indonesian bean-to-bar chocolate brand which sources cocoa beans from smallholder farmers in Sumatra. Kakoa’s two-fold mission is to create a world-class chocolate from Indonesia that can compete in the global market while improving the livelihoods of Indonesian cocoa farmers. With a degree in international agricultural and rural development from Cornell University, she went on to work as consultant for McKinsey & Company focusing on agriculture and economic development. Her work took her to agricultural projects worldwide, including Tanzania, Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea.

What were you like growing up?

I was daddy’s little girl and a bit of a princess. I even had a pink princess dress. So when I told my family what I was going to do, they said why agriculture? there are bugs out there!” My father, who works in mining was most concerned. He knew it was not an easy industry and not a lot of women are involved in it.

So why agriculture?

Agriculture holds the answer to sustainable economic development. What affected me the most was the issue of hunger. So let’s think about how to solve hunger. Agriculture is the way to do it because you make more food. Economic development is linked to agricultural development which is linked to poverty.

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Farmers pruning cocoa trees

You’re worked for McKinsey & Co and are always dressed to the nines unless you’re in the field. How did the farmers react to you?

In agriculture, I’m odd in any case. It was more “who is this foreign person coming into our village?” I felt like an outsider in many counts. I look different, my Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) is terrible and I’m the wrong skin colour. It’s like why is this weird Chinese-Indonesian girl who doesn’t speak bahasa here?

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Sabrina holding court with her farmers in Lampung, South Sumatra

Why cocoa farmers specifically?

Being a farmer is a noble profession. Farmers have been long under-appreciated, do some of the hardest work and have the fewest opportunities available to them. Here, the cocoa farmers can’t get their financial needs met and there is a spread of diseases for cocoa trees in the country. So farmers are switching to growing rubber and palm oil.

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Cocoa beans in their colourful pods

How is Kakoa making a difference?

To counter these issues, Kakoa works with World Wildlife Fund and smallholder cocoa farmers in conservation areas such as the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Sumatra, where some of the last remaining Sumatran rhinos, tigers and elephants live. Since 2014, we’ve had over 60 farmers undergo an 8-week training program to improve the quality of their beans, learn farm management and how to maintain a healthy farming ecosystem. Our farmers are also paid over 3x the market price for their beans. We do this so we can influence farmer behaviour in a way no one else can. They should be given the opportunity to empower themselves.

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The end result of the farmers’ hard work

What has this journey been like for you?

It reminds me of the time I was climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. I was behind the rest of the pack, slower than the rest. There’s still 7 more hours to go and every single second you’re in pain. But at no point in that journey did I want to stop. I told myself I’m going to get there but it kind of sucks right now. You just put one foot in front of the other and take the next step.

Why do you do what you do?

I believe the work we do is important on both the macro and personal level. There is a huge disconnect between people and food. Who are the people who make and grow your food? We want our consumers to get to know the farmers who grow their food, and know that they are making a real and substantial difference in their lives.

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Sabrina and her Kakoa team and WWF trainers

Learn more about Sabrina’s delicious chocolate here!

Thanks JUARA Indonesia team for introducing us to this amazing woman’s work!

Top 5 Misconceptions About Washing Your Face

I remember when I was a child with oily skin

and the doctor said “just wash it with bar soap, It is strong enough to take the oil off.” If I could have only smacked him, I would have. But I didn’t know better – and back then, it’s possible he nor the beauty industry knew either. Here are the top 5 comments or questions I get about scrub-a-dub-dubbing as a skincare company owner…

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Let’s Play A Game: Do or Don’t

1. My skin is so oily, I don’t need a moisturizer after I wash it.

DON’T: Let’s be clear, we need both water AND oil on our skin for a healthy balance. When you wash your face with a cleanser, you risk overstripping and overdrying the skin – which can trigger it to produce more oil to compensate. So combat that with pre-emptive re-hydration. Use a light moisturizer or an oil-free one, or if you’re really oily – a hydrating serum.

2.  I use a scrub everyday.

DON’T: Your skin takes about 28 days to turn over. In other words, when you exfoliate, the process that skin goes from being newly exposed to old and in need of exfoliation takes a while – so you could be rubbing your newly exposed skin raw if you scrub everyday. I suggest 2-3 times a week, giving your skin a break – but still getting the benefits of clear pores and oft skin from scrubbing properly.

3. Why shouldn’t I use regular bar soap to wash my face?

DON’T: True, bar soaps and facial soaps all clean – that’s for sure. But how aggressively they do it, and how they make the skin feel after drastically differs; that matters too. Bar soap may have stronger surfactants to clean and there is a huge emphasis on fragrance.  Both may irritate your skin, but most importantly – bar soap can be harsher and overstrip/overdry your skin – which is a bit like giving your skin a beating. If you’re in a pinch and must, then just don’t lather for too long, and rinse off. Definitely follow with a moisturizer.

4. I only wash my face with water.

DO…ish: Believe it or not, there are people in this category. Surprisingly, there are experiments run on people who stop using soap altogether, my brother being one of them who tried. The body has an interesting way of balancing itself, so in a way, this isn’t the most terrible thing to do – and has benefits in that you’re au naturale – with fewer chemicals to mess with your skin. Honestly, if this works for you, and you’re not a heavy makeup user, go for it. But what you’re missing out on are some benefits gentle products can do – like exfoliate and hydrate to keep your skin extra smooth.

5. How many times should I wash my face per day?

DO… wait that doesn’t really work here since this is a question. Before you go to bed – definitely. In the morning when you get up is a good one too – though since technically you just slept, rinsing with water may be sufficient – and preserve your skin’s natural balance. If you are exercising or in heavily polluted areas in the day – you can wash it again in the middle – but try not to wash too often. The risk is overstripping your natural oils – and throwing your skin off balance – being too oily or dry can come with its own issues.

Got more questions? Let me know!

X.O.

JUARA Girl Metta

Give Yourself a Stress Check

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This week is national stress buster week, and boy do I need a stress check.

Do you ever wake up at 5am in a panic thinking that it’s 9:30 and your alarm didn’t go off and you overslept and missed a meeting? That’s been happening to me the past few days, which means I need a SERIOUS stress detox.

Stress is like a pimple on the back of your neck. You kind of feel it when it starts, and over the next week it grows and grows until one day you’re wearing your hair up in a ponytail and your best friend looks at you and goes “OMG what is that on the back of your neck??? It’s really infected!”

And at that point you just have to pop it. Pop it, disinfect it and allow your skin to heal.

So this week, it’s time to pop your stress pimple, detox your life and allow your anxiety-ridden brain to heal.

Here are the three stress busters I’m implementing to help me chill the hell out this week:

1. Buy An Alarm Clock

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My morning ritual goes something like this: wake up in a panic at 5:30 thinking my alarm didn’t go off, check my phone, think “it’s only 5:30, phew”, proceed to check my email JUST INCASE someone sent something important between the hours of midnight and 5:30am, put my phone back in the charger, roll over and go back to sleep, repeat twice more until my alarm goes off (reliably) at 7:45am.

Instead of relying on my phone to wake me up, I’ve decided to buy an alarm clock. By putting the clock next to my bed, I can quickly glance up and realize that it is in fact only 5:30am and proceed to go back to sleep. Keeping my alarm separate from my phone also reduces the temptation to check email in the middle of the night or from bed first thing in the morning. It also allows you to turn your phone off (read, OFF as in powered down) overnight which 1. keeps your sleep from being disturbed by constant buzzing and dinging in the middle of the night and 2. gives your phone a rest… because electronic devices deserve sleep too.

2. No Email Before 9am or After 7pm

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In this world of constant communication, everything has become an ’emergency’ and if you don’t answer NOW the world is going to fall apart. Let’s all take a step back, breathe, and realize that if someone sends you an email at 11pm, it PROBABLY isn’t actionable until 9am the following day anyway. So why do we all drive ourselves crazy and leave our email notifications on all night? Turn that stuff off when you go home, and you’ll feel far more refreshed and ready to tackle the day when you get into the office in the morning. I promise.

3. Take A Lunch Break Every Day

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I am a serial lunch-at-desk crime committer. Every day I walk outside for 5-10 minutes to grab my food and then immediately come back to my desk to continue working. I don’t know why I feel that this is necessary… I am clearly allowed a lunch but I just don’t take it. And neither does anyone else I know! WE ARE ALL CRAZY. If you have an hour for lunch, take that hour to do things for you. Eat outside, run errands, watch funny videos online, call your mom… just do anything other than work. It’s important to set boundaries for yourself to maintain a healthy work-life balance. And eating lunch at a normal, human pace is a good start.

What stress busters will you try out this week?