When I met Holland-born Jan van Poortvliet, I discovered his life was once changed by a chance encounter with a stranger.
Jan, the 156th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, travelled to Sydney in 1999 for a holiday … and met a woman.
Two months later, Jan flew back to see her again. The following year, she moved to Holland with her two young children. In 2008, they did the journey in reverse, relocating to Sydney.
Jan had owned a marketing agency in Holland, but he wasn’t confident he could succeed with marketing in a new country. So, before the big move, he bought some moulds from a chocolate maker. When he got to Australia, he launched Chocogram, an online retailer that sells (among other things) ‘chocolate telegrams’ – messages written in chocolate letters.
“I’ve ordered two chocolate telegrams in the past,” I told Jan, “but I don’t know from which company.”
“It was me,” said Jan, who explained that Chocogram is the only Australian online retailer that sells the product.
Chocogram is now a thriving business with its own manufacturing facility – all because Jan struck up a conversation with a random woman two decades ago.