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Rudy & Ella Livingston

A Conversation with the Inspirational Local Couple Behind a Prolific Brand

During the brainstorming session for our Local Love issue, our team knew instantly that we wanted to cover Ella Livingston, founder of the luxury chocolate brand Cocoa Asante. Chattanooga is known for its thriving small business community and the incredible entrepreneurial spirit that underscores it. So, when the Cocoa Asante brand went viral due to a rare 9.5 out of 10 rating from TikTok food critic Keith Lee, sales for Ella Livingston’s noteworthy brand began to skyrocket. Almost overnight, Ella began appearing in interviews from CNN to Yahoo News. Despite all of her success and the thriving business that she has built from the ground up, while interviewing Ella, I was honored to hear more about the person she credits for her prolific business as a chocolatier–her husband Rudy. 

After just a few moments in the presence of Ella and her husband Rudy, I felt without a shadow of a doubt that true, selfless love does in fact exist. From their lighthearted, playful demeanor to their natural ability to recognize and fulfill the other's needs, the two have such an ease with one another that can be rare to find in relationships today. There were moments during our interview where I could catch them gazing at one another in admiration and I learned more about them and their relationship, I was continuously inspired by their journey. 

In my last interview with Ella for one of our previous issues, I asked her who empowers and encourages her on a local level. Her response was the inspiration for this feature. Ella asked, “Can I say my husband after all the things he's done to make sure Cocoa Asante still exists?” She went on to say, “If it wasn't for him, I would've given up a long time ago. Rudy would work twelve-hour shifts, get off late, and come and help me all night even if he had to be up early. He would massage my feet when I was pulling all-nighters. I remember one time we were out of a supply we needed to get an order out quickly and he drove all the way to Atlanta to get it for me and they didn't even have it. He wasn't angry. He didn't make me feel bad. He was actually the one who kept pushing me to reach out to Keith Lee. The reason everyone sees me at the level I am is because I get to go home and let it all out. Rudy lets me cry if I need to and he just continues to pour into me. Before we got married, I asked him if he was all in when I came up with this idea. He was all in and has been all in ever since." 

So, for this feature, when I had the opportunity to interview them together, I told Rudy about Ella’s thoughts about him as the strength behind her as well as her brand, he didn’t hesitate to respond jokingly with, “Well, it’s true.” With playful humor and mutual admiration, Rudy went on to say, "Being that person for her, honestly, is an honor in itself. Given everything that she has accomplished and everything that she will accomplish, as a man, what I want to do and what I should do is support her. The honor is that I get to be with her through all of this, not the other way around."

Another thing that struck me during our interview was that throughout our time together, there was never a moment where either was focused on themselves. It was never “I”, but instead it was always about "we" and "us". When I asked Rudy about his role in the business, he responded in a way that feels almost rare in relationships these days. He said, "Whether it's going to get a product, watching our daughter, or doing anything else Ella needs, my job is to be a supportive husband. That's in our vows. It's what I am supposed to be doing and it’s what I am going to continue to do." When asked about when he fell in love with Ella, he went on to say, "I know it sounds corny, but I fell in love with her the moment I met her. I proposed pretty quickly. I knew I’d found the person for me." Ella agreed as she told us, "Honestly, after the first date I deleted Tinder. The way he made me laugh, he has been doing that ever since." 

It's an incredibly beautiful thing to witness a couple that seems to ebb and flow so easily. When I commented on this to Ella, she credited that to their balance. From completing each other's sentences and joking about how they should get a brand deal from Tinder after being married more than five years, I asked them what they enjoy about being married to one another and about their thoughts on not just being a representation of love, but Black love.

Rudy commented, "She talks about how supportive I am, but she is incredibly supportive. She pushed and supported me going back to school and I graduated with a 3.9 GPA and made the Dean's list. When we first had our daughter, I was in school and she took the brunt of that. Being married to her is incredible. She's a great boss and a great worker. People don’t think they see healthy Black love but it's there. It exists. We can't just base our perspective on one situation. We have to widen that scope because even without me having my father in my life I still saw healthy Black relationships and I want my daughter to see that as well. I love being a Dad."

Ella noted, "For me personally, we pour into each other. We aren't selfish, it's not just about me. For someone who didn't have a father, Rudy is a phenomenal Dad. Black love does exist and Black love is beautiful. For me, having a partner that already understands without me having to explain is so important. To have someone that already understands me as a Black woman dealing with every micro-aggression and not having to explain why it hurts makes life easier. It's easier to communicate when communication is such a huge part in every relationship."

As we were packing up to leave and observed them, I noticed something profound that spoke to exactly what Ella noted. The two move so naturally with one another–without words and without hesitation. Their love is evident even in their very movements. From my time with Rudy and Ella, I was able to see how a love that respects each person as an individual allows the relationship to transform into a powerhouse. I can only hope that at some point in their lives, everyone will experience a love like Rudy and Ella’s that even the greatest romance movies can’t portray.

Kendra Simons, owner of The SimonWest Agency, is a Chattanooga-based entrepreneur. A regular Chattanooga City Lifestyle contributor, Simons provides photography, videography, virtual assisting, and social media & brand management services. | Photo: John Adams

Before we got married, I asked him if he was all in when I came up with this idea. He was all in and has been all in ever since.

My job is to be a supportive husband. That's in our vows. It's what I am supposed to be doing and it’s what I am going to continue to do.