Name: Robert Bowden
Profession: Chocolatier/Founder of Viveré Chocolates
One word that describes me: Proficient
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
Honored to be in the company of some outstanding gentlemen that are making a global impact by being themselves. It is crucial that we make the world not only aware of the contributions of black men but that we are a dynamically diverse group of individuals that excel in any and all arenas. I am very proud to be one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
The best thing I can do to support black male achievement is to be visible and accessible. The accessible part is crucial so that I have the opportunity to directly engage men that look like me and be tangible proof that their dreams are as attainable as they are infinite. I volunteer, speak, and teach as often as I’m able. In business I try to look for ways to create opportunities for those that want them.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
My approach to life is such that I look for opportunities in the obstacles and methods to achieve my long-term goals before taking any action. As such I can say that life hasn’t presented me with things that I would call a struggle. If you remain focused on your goals and objectives, you don’t get deterred by the setbacks. After years of being a professional horse trainer, circumstances in the industry made it implausible for me to continue even though it was something I loved. I suppose I could have fought the evolution of things. Instead I took a year off, thought about what other passions I had, tried to make a business out of a couple, then settled on chocolate and I haven’t looked back. The secret to my success lies in my adaptability and flexibility.
What is your Extraordinary Impact?
My impact stems from the willingness to be unapologetically me. I don’t believe in comfort zones and I’ve never allowed anyone to define me or tell me where I belong. Black men are often told how they should act, dress, or be; that does so much damage even with the best of intentions. I have many facets that are equally important in creating the man I’ve become so I made a conscious decision not to live a compartmentalized life. If there’s any way I’m having an impact, I hope it’s by encouraging our young men to be who they are.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
Sincerity. My friends know I will always be the kid from Alabama that likes cornbread. There’s no pretense with them; we share the good, bad, and often the embarrassing times. That’s what make real friendships so special they are there regardless of your fortune or misfortune. I understand we all have goals but I refuse to surround myself with people whose friendship ends at the limits of my usefulness to them.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
I’m in the process of creating a cookbook of chocolate desserts. On the international front as a board member of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund, I’m spearheading research into the challenges facing cacao farmers in Central America, Africa, and Asia to develop systems to improve their quality of life, cacao production, and the global supply chain.
What is the best advice you ever received?
You have one life to live don’t waste it worried about what someone else thinks.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
Don’t ask for permission to be your best self and stop waiting on support. If you have a dream or purpose be willing to pursue it alone. Don’t be afraid of hard work or failure; they are the two things that will help you find success. Also, get a passport and use it. Take trips whenever you can and learn about other people. I guarantee you will learn something about yourself in the process.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I research to learn as much as possible about the people that I’m meeting. I have seen the best presentations and negotiations derailed because someone didn’t do their homework on who would be in the room. Then I make an outline of my goals, talking points, and any questions I have; one hard copy in my hand and one digital on my phone. In this day and age there is no excuse for not being prepared.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
Wanderlust drives the majority of my passions and pursuits. I love to travel. I don’t need an itinerary … just get up and go. To me joy is being able to immerse myself in local culture, food, and things not often found on the beaten path. So far Greece has been my best vacation. The pace of life and people, the weather, the blue sea against warm black beaches, THE FOOD, and daily siestas. I promise it was not the Ouzo that lead to late nights dancing on tables at local restaurants to a live band. It was a combination of all the things that make Greece a beautiful place to experience.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
It would be on a large yacht in the Mediterranean Sea. I love the ocean and warm climates and great food. Between Greece, Italy, Turkey, Monaco, Croatia, and Morocco, just to name a few. I could spend the rest of my days sharing amazing adventures and dining on extraordinary food, in breathtaking locales with friends old and new.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Life truly is what you make of it. So dream big, work smart, love hard, and live every moment because it will be over before you know it.
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.
Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the first-ever Black Men XCEL Summit, Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.