‘How a chocolate museum visit made me reflect on what great company culture is’

‘How a chocolate museum visit made me reflect on what great company culture is’
Photo: Guranda Bursulaia, PhD student and SI scholar at Malmo University.
SI Scholar Guranda Bursulaia shares her thoughts on how a chocolate museum visit made her re-consider the importance of a company’s culture and transparency.

My first two months living in Sweden have been filled with eye-opening moments. In particular, visiting the Malmö Chocolate Museum has had a profound impact on me. It made me realise what it means to make a difference as a company.  

Malmö Chokladfabrik was established in 1888 by Danish entrepreneur Emil Nissen. He was a man with a long-term vision and innovative ideas. He employed around 200 people, mostly women and young girls. He was one of the first entrepreneurs establishing Day Care Centers for his employees’ children so that women could work and be financially independent. Thanks to the Nissen’s expertise and wisdom, the factory was never shut down. Even during World Wars and economic crises. Thus, no one ever lost their job.

This story made me reflect on the hierarchy in companies. For me, Emil Nissen’s attitude guarantees stability and security for a worker. This approach is a perfect example of a great company culture: it’s about building a successful business and celebrate its results together. This team spirit and loyalty shown by the whole company is an inspiration for me.

In 1890, the company was called Mazetti. One of their most successful product was cocoa powder. Shopkeepers selling the cocoa powder had to fill in a box with significant amount of it. Except, cocoa powder is very light.  That is why they decided to earn more money by cheating and mixing cocoa powder with coffee beans, for example, to make it heavier.

Customers, used to the delicious taste of cocoa, noticed the fraud and started to complain about the powder and the Chocolate Factory in general. Emil, unaware of the scam, received many letters from disappointed customers. From then on, he would sell an already sealed package with cocoa powder which he would name “Ögonkakao” with an image on the packaging showing watchful eyes. The company’s trademark, the watchful eyes, is still widely recognised nowadays.

As a customer, I often feel duped. I come from a place where people are experts in bargaining. But I am not and just decided to put up with and it and often pay extra money. But this reaction from Mazetti makes me feel that customers’ opinions should be valued. You would probably argue that nowadays, businesses try to fulfil the needs and interests of the client in order to keep them.

But here is the difference: in the first case, it is about being fair and honest to customers, whereas in the second case it is about finding what makes people want to spend their money. While I do not judge this way of making business, I support and appreciate companies which value customers’ opinions. As a customer, I need to know if I can trust a brand. But I can only do it if the company is transparent in its communication.

This museum itself is a time machine taking you throughout the whole century. It brings forward a representation of ideal entrepreneurship: responsible, innovative, sustainable, respectful, thoughtful and qualitative. And the slogan of the factory “If we can dream it, we can do it!” has stayed on my mind ever since.