After leaving USD's laboratories, this science alumna went straight to the kitchen to cook up a tasty career. Diolinda Monteiro, owner and operator of Diolinda's Chocolates, graduated with a BA in biology ('94) and an MS in Marine Science ('02), both from the College of Arts and Sciences. Monteiro is committed to using only natural, fair trade ingredients. She customizes each order to meet the client's needs, and her chocolates are available online.
What did you enjoy most about your time at USD?
The attention that I received from my professors and the strong sense of community was my favorite thing about USD. The small class sizes and the personal relationships I was able to form with my professors and others within the USD community had a strong influence on how I approach potential relationships with people that I meet, especially in my business.
"My preferred method of sales is to talk to my customers. I enjoy getting to know what they like and creating each order specifically for the individual."
How has your liberal arts background contributed to your success in the chocolate business?
My background in liberal arts allows me to connect topics in ways I might not have thought of had I been completely focused on science. This translates to increased flexibility and creativity in my business.
Your chocolates are all organic and fair trade. Why is fair trade important to you?
Much of the chocolate that is consumed in the US comes from regions that have a history of labor practices that would not be legal here in the states. Chocolate is, inarguably, a luxury and to indulge in chocolate while ignoring human rights abuse is unconscionable. While I do understand that there are many reputable chocolate providers who are not part of any fair trade program, purchasing chocolate that has been certified as fair trade is the best way to let the industry know just how important these human rights issues are. I am happy to say that major chocolate producers are paying attention and beginning to offer more fair trade certified products to professionals.
I notice that your chocolates are for sale on the web. Do you also have a storefront? Do you sell at farmer's markets?
My preferred method of sales is to talk to my customers. I enjoy getting to know what they like and creating each order specifically for the individual, event or helping someone to create that perfect gift. While I have thought of opening a shop, a storefront would force me to push my customers to buy what I have on hand rather than to create something special for them. Farmer's markets have the same issue, plus the heat! The best part about not being so readily available is that when someone takes the time to call or email me, I know that they are thinking of something special either for themselves or for someone they care about. That type of relationship excites and inspires me.
"The small class sizes and the personal relationships I was able to form with my professors and others within the USD community had a strong influence on how I approach potential relationships with people that I meet, especially in my business."
What are your goals for the future?
Great question! My daughter will be graduating high school in a couple of years and I know that my life will change drastically. I have been volunteering with Just Call Us Volunteers; a non-profit started by local chef, Julie Darling. Her organization focuses on feeding healthy food and educating low-income adults and children in San Diego. I would like to devote more of my spare time to Chef Julie's organization.
For my business, I would love to explore chocolate in more of an artistic way, essentially making edible art. I see a lot of beautiful chocolates for sale but most use artificial colors and lots of white chocolate. I would focus on using all natural ingredients, and as few of them as possible, to create beautiful, edible art.
- Anne Malinoski '11