Although we were officially founded as BLYSS gmbh in 2009, our roots start in the 1910s when Irishman Percy McDonald and his German wife Gertrude cut through wild jungle of Papua New Guinea to found the Ilolo Estate in Sogerei.
They soon had two kids who, living in the jungle, grew up with snakes and bulls as house pets.
During the Second World War, McDonald’s Corner was a pivotal point on the Kokoda Trail, a campaign that sits in the hearts of Australians today. The family memorial still stands, with many tourists passing by and sending tweets and pictures of them saying hi to the old heritage.
Growing up in the jungle was a blast for the younger son, Bob.
He then took over the plantation in the 1950s and evolved it into a multidiverse rubber and cattle farm.
In the meantime, Len Duffy was a master pastry chef in Sydney, Australia and created magnificent tortes and cakes from his atelier in Randwick. His wife Beatrice was his right hand, best friend and forever love.
The Duffy’s had 2 gorgeous daughters which would sleep in the wee hours of the morning on flour sacks while Len and Beatrice prepared the day’s pastries and delights. Colleen and Patti grew up with sand and surf in their hearts as they Sydney-side sparkled. Patti became a court reporter and decided to backpack around the world. So, in the early 1960s she set off via boat for Europe with a beehive hairdo and suitcase in hand, for 4 years. A long and adventurous time in the 1960s!
As love would have it, Bob and Patti met. Within 6 weeks they were engaged and the jungle boy took his blonde bombshell off to live in the jungle on Ilolo Estate.
Bob built Patti a fairytale house out of love.
Together they worked as a great team and she soon started developing women’s groups for the wives of farmers and helped them create homewares and clothes to sell at local markets to bring more independence to the ladies and opportunities for income for the tribes in general. She even founded the Country Women’s Association of PNG.
Bob and Patti would travel for 20 years between Papua New Guinea and Australia, training the communities to take over the old plantations.
They had 4 kids and decided it was time to connect more into Australia for education of the family. So, school uniforms, and an industrialised world became the new normal for the family who landed on the Sunshine Coast (eastern Australia).
The youngest child, Alyssa Jade, grew up learning food traditions that were very different to her family and mastered the art of microwave cakes with blue icing. It wasn’t quite the artisanal pastry cheffing from her grandparent’s, but it was a sign of the modern times.
Everyone grew up and the little one, Alyssa Jade made a career in corporate business in Australia and Europe working for large utility companies.
She completed the world championship Ironman competition in 2007 and at that time, agreed with Bob to look back at the family business and see if there is a way they could do something together again.
Bob went to live in Ecuador, home of the Arriba Nacionale cacao to research farming techniques and terroir. It was like he was back home, being in the jungle and a agroecoloy language he spoke.
Lyss learned food and hygiene preparation at via night school and started to crush and grind cacao beans sent from Bob in her little apartment in Frankfurt. They worked together. It was grand. They found around 450 families working in Esmereldas and Manabi farming beautiful organic cacao and decided to work together. They invested.
In the meantime, Patti worked hard to document details of stories and methodologies of how the family had worked in Papua New Guinea those years before, about how they made fair and direct trade, investing in health services, education and also supporting cottage industry for family members of their rubber planter teams. This became the blueprint that Alyssa Jade worked from ever since.
After 2 years in Ecuador, Bob passed away and Lyss committed herself 100% to the life of chocolate. She lived in Ecuador learning all possible before returning to Germany to launch BLYSS, a raw chocolate company based on the cacao. They made chocolate bars and wrapped them in beautiful tin which made people say WOW. It went boom and then it struggled. Germany in 2010 was not ready for low process cacao and, it became a struggle for Lyss to keep everything afloat. The lessons start ups and young entrepreneurs just have to learn.
She went back to the start. The cocoa bean. The origin of the genetics and the farming, wondering if how they farmed the cacao was in fact, possibly a USP for the company. Over the next years, the company stopped making chocolate bars and focused on the cacao bean itself, finding more success in celebrating the people and process behind the cliche chocolate world.
Other social enterprises seemed to evolve, like opportunites growing up like it’s own new tree.
Farmers from other areas in Ecuador, and around the world started asking for help on how to farm and bring to market their beans. Lyss went and helped. Helping others also grow and sell their beans evolved into an education platform CACAO.academy, which in 2014 started to operate as a project of BLYSS. Late 2015, investments in Ecuador were divested, responsibilities transferred to local families and new development spread over more farming communities, lands and countries. Ecuador, Philippines and Papua New Guinea are the locations BLYSS is focused on for 2016 developing the expertise from Ecuador into a wider group. Still extremely humble, working with hundreds of farmers with a very lean operational team operating around the sun in support.
CACAO.academy trains and supports farmers to evolve their lands organically and ethically into multidverse opportunties to keep their families in sustainable business. BLYSS now manages the quality control and trade of this between food companies, chefs and individuals from Europe, India, Middle East and Australia. We are working on everything from rehab-ing farms that have suffered neglect, environmental trauma or are converting from chemical use to organic. We are also working on models for muliple income earning opportunities for families to generate independent incomes other than just cacao farming, such as developing organic fertilisers from cacao pods for sale in coconut and banana plantations.
Thank you so very much for your amazing support over the years. The company and Lyss has now been nominated for various awards in service, and the whole family, is full of gratitude.