By Aaron Retherford
When Katrina Coravos worked with a marketing specialist to help with rebranding her Liberty Chocolates company at the end of last year, Coravos was told to share her personal story through her company.
Five minutes into speaking with Coravos and you realize she has a story to tell.
Although not a native Vermonter, it didn’t take long for Coravos to get hooked on the Green Mountain State. About six years ago, Coravos visited Vermont for a weekend. Three months later, she sold her health food store in New Hampshire and moved to Vermont.
She started making chocolate because she “just loves chocolate.” Her venture grew from something she could do at home while she homeschooled her children to a nationally-recognized business with seven employees.
That’s just a sliver of her story though.
“I think one of the things I’m hoping to accomplish with this business is having my heart and passion come through into the business,” Coravos said. “I think a lot of people compartmentalize and keep things separate. I’ve never been able to. A big part of my work with women and some of the movements I’ve been a part of, I feel like my business is a great way to bring that message forward to people.
“Having a business with a conscience and a soul behind it, I think that’s a big part of my work with Liberty.”
Part of the rebranding process was creating a more eye-catching wrapper. But more importantly to Coravos, the other part was putting more of her backstory into the brand, telling why she is doing what she is doing, and what liberty means to her.
In between making chocolate, Coravos found time to create Circle of Women International a little over a year ago.
“There’s definitely a connection. One of my inspirations of creating this brand (Liberty Chocolates) is I wanted to open up a women’s retreat center,” Coravos said. “I do a lot of work with women and women’s spirituality. Circle of Women International is an offshoot of some of the work I do with women.”
And while she clearly loves chocolate, she loves her work with Circle of Women International as well and is excited about what this summer has to offer.
Circle of Women International is hosting Nana Wilma, a Mayan grandmother from Guatemala for 13 days in August. Wilma will be leading around 10 ceremonies.
Every year, there is a women’s gathering called Wisdom Fire, a two-day ceremonial gathering that brings together various indigenous cultures.
Coravos said typically three or four cultures are represented at Wisdom Fire, but the dream is to have a lot more.
“Our goals are to continue to bring Wisdom Keepers here from other countries to teach their ceremonies. Part of our mission is to do a lot of weaving between different cultures, honoring their traditions and bringing their teachings to Vermont,” she said. “I think Vermont is really a ripe place to do that. I think people here are really open-minded and want to bring back some of those original indigenous ceremonies that have kind of gotten lost.”
Each month on the new moon, Circle of Women International brings women together to support each other at Red Tent gatherings – another way Circle of Women International helps build community.
However, it’s not only Coravos’ story that permeates through her chocolate business. Inside the wrappers of the chocolate bars, Coravos began writing other people’s “stories of liberty,” which are basically their hopes and dreams. Coravos has teamed up with local businesses like Vermont Peanut Butter Company, The Alchemist, Soul Food and Confections, and the Butterfly Bakery of Vermont to make unique chocolate bars and share the stories of others.
Liberty Chocolates has been at its current location at 87 Barre St. in Montpelier for a little over a year, where Coravos creates honey-sweetened chocolate bars. Despite the difficulty of cooking chocolate with honey and the need for a stubborn personality like hers, Coravos liked the idea of being able to source honey locally and no one else was using honey as the lone sweetener. Honey traditionally has been used in cacao drinks.
Coravos also holds cacao ceremonies, allowing participants to drink chocolate in a traditional way. There will be a cacao ceremony on June 27 as a fundraiser for Circle of Women.
“I want to honor the traditions of chocolate,” Coravos said. “Being able to do the cacao ceremonies allows me to bring more of the medicinal elements to the public. Then bringing the bars out with the traditional sweetener added to it, I think I was lucky to be able to do that.”