Written by: Luke Lawrence, Augusta University
With the holidays behind us and Spring upon us, many people want to continue to support local businesses with their gift buying. Read about one of our long-time producers, Agape Chocolates, on our website "Meet My Farmer" blog at augustalocallygrown.blogspot.com. You can also find Agape Chocolates on the Augusta Locally Grown Online Farmers Market.
"Love for your fellow man. That's the meaning, and that's what we try to embody," said James Stefanakos, Agape Chocolates owner and founder. As he prepared to make several bars from scratch, I inquired as to what led to the name of his business. Like James, the word "agape" has Greek origins, and roughly translates to "love and charity for your fellow man." Being raised in a military family and 2nd generation Greek immigrant, James wanted to infuse his heritage with his benevolent values: integrity of a job well done; giving back to those who need help; valuing the community around you.
These values are the core of Agape Chocolates, and have been since the company's inception. It started in 2014 when James left his engineering job at a local firm. "I felt like I wasn't making a difference in the lives around me. I wanted to truly help people.", he said. James loves to share about how his parents and grandparents influenced the start of his business. He draws upon the wisdom garnered from his father, who served in the Navy, and his Grandfather (Pappoulie) who served side by side with Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State, and Eugene Fluckey.
At first, this was just a hobby but, after a steady increase in demand, a full-time business was formed. James also knew that, from the beginning, he wanted to run things outside of the established norms. "All kids deserve to eat." That straight-to-the-point, empathetic thinking embodies Agape Chocolates, right down to their slogan - Buy a bar, feed a child. To this day, Agape Chocolates has donated partial profits to food programs for every bar sold. To James, it is all about giving back. "It's not about how many bars we've sold, it's about how many children we've fed."