Co-founder Justin Vigmostad is the 39-year-old chocolate genius who creates our delicious Balanz chocolate recipes. He started his career in dessert cooking at a young age, playing around the kitchen making peanut butter cookies using his mom’s Joy of Cooking cookbook.
“One of the more entertaining moments was when I left that cookbook next to burners on the stove and suddenly the cookbook was in flames,” Justin says. “I believe we threw the cookbook under the faucet and continued to use it for many years even though a little black.”
The experience was not without its lessons, he says. “It makes you respect even the things that don’t seem too dangerous in the kitchen—you realize you’ve got to pay attention to them.”
Later, while studying accounting at the University of Iowa, Justin’s love of making great desserts led him to a side job with a pastry chef-turned-entrepreneur whose mission was to manufacture upscale artisanal chocolate truffles using industrial machinery.
“I was their first employee and ended up working there for about seven years,” says Justin. “I learned the art of making chocolate truffles, how to operate high-end industrial machinery, how to fix old machines that we bought at auctions.” Justin also traveled to Switzerland to source the finest chocolate and learn from top chocolatiers in the industry.
“Certainly the chocolate making was my favorite part of that job,” he says. So when co-founder Chris Clark, the father of one of his childhood friends, called him up with the idea of creating Ayurvedic chocolate, he was all in, despite living a hectic life as vice president of buying and operations at Collective Goods and raising four young sons.
Because the company started during the pandemic lockdown in April 2020, he has found himself back in his home kitchen testing chocolate recipes.
“When my sons see the chocolate come out, they want to be involved,” he says. “It’s usually fun to have them in the kitchen, but for this I’m trying to really stay focused. So when I’m trying out the recipes for Balanz chocolates, the kids are in bed.”