Honest Chocolate – Cape Town

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In today’s podcast, Anthony Gird, founder and partner of Honest Chocolate, explains the essence of his business when he says, “I wanted to offer a high end specialty product, which incorporates healthy ingredients made of raw chocolate that inspire people in some way.”

Please note: This was recorded by Mark during a trip to Cape Town in 2014. As the interview took place with Anthony in the production kitchen, there is considerable background noise. We hope it does not put you off listening to what is an exciting and inspiring story of how two guys with no culinary background started from scratch in their own kitchen with a just cookery book. Fantastic!

Offer Something Unique

Not satisfied with simply making a good quality chocolate, Gird and his fellow Capetonian, partner Michael de Klerk decided early on that they wanted to give their customers the most compelling and attractive products, which they could possibly create.

Each chocolate is still made by hand by their small team in their production kitchen. From the melting and tempering of the chocolate, to the molding and wrapping, every step is still done by individuals just as it has been done for centuries by yesteryear’s chocolatiers. There are no machines yet anywhere in this process.

That hasn’t always been easy, admits Gird, who explains that in the early days, both he and de Klerk were getting up at around 3 am to make their chocolates in order to take advantage of the cool air temperatures of the night.

“We found that the ideal temperature in which to make chocolate was about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. That was a bit challenging when working in my small apartment kitchen, so we did it at 3 or 4 am.”

Stand Out from The Crowd

When it comes to packaging their product both Gird and de Klerk understand that this is one area in which they must excel in order to grab customer’s attention and build their business.  “Packaging is everything,” insists Gird.  “When a product just sits on a shelf and no one is talking about it, it has to do something to get noticed. We wanted to do something compelling, but we also wanted to do something fun. Using local artists to create unique, fun and intriguing wrapper designs, Honest Chocolate has added a different twist to the standard wrapper.

Get Publicity, Spend No Money

“We develop flavors and then we develop ideas for images and our artists take those ideas and create works of art.”  It is these unique mini-masterpieces that have grabbed attention for the company by providing free advertising. “We have had magazines feature us solely because of the artwork we choose,” says Gird. “We never pay for advertising or TV slots.”

A surprising feature of their packaging is that customers keep their wrappers. Some are even reused. “Someone in the United Sates cut out one of the images on our wrapper and made it into a light switch, “says Gird. “Somebody else made a tray from our packaging. It’s cool.”

Be Special

“I think the artisan aspect of our business is essential,” explains Gird. “People are looking for something special in multiple ways: something that tastes special, something that has a special story and something they can tell other people about.  We offer a premium product; the way it is made; the time taken to make it, the ingredients we use and the packaging used to sell it differentiates us from other products. That allows our buyers to differentiate themselves from other buyers. This gives our chocolate an intrinsic quality (and value) that breeds success.”

Start Small….But Start

Gird firmly believes that budding artisan food-makers have no reason to feel daunted by the prospect of starting a chocolate business. Although, the sourcing of adequate capital and the inherent risk of going out on your own is enough to keep any would-be entrepreneur up at night, he believes that you can simply start small.

Seek Customer Feedback and Professional Advice Early On

No one has all the information needed to avoid mistakes. “Obviously, I made a lot of mistakes, and that is the key: you make mistakes all the time. But if you want something done, you just have to read and practice”. Notwithstanding your willingness to get stuck in, Gird warns that seeking out both professional advice and customer feedback early on in your journey are fundamental steps towards your future success.

You can quickly and readily enlist the opinions of friends and family and “you can hire people to do a taste testing, and then let them comment on the product.” For matters financial, it is important to “get financial advice in terms of financial planning and strategic planning” Your financial adviser will be able to consider your financial expectations and “calculate what you need to do in order to achieve that level of success”, suggests Gird.

Plan Your Next Move

“Two big things are happening”, exclaims Gird with a grin. “First is the goal to move into a retail space”. “This is a very key step. We have to achieve volume in order to grow, to make any money”.  This is the main lesson, which we have learned in the last three years. “We knew that we could only succeed in business if we could get our products into retail stores, but we were not yet ready for that stage.

Think Outside the Chocolate Box

“The second thing that we wanted to do for a long time is owning a chocolate café”. “We will serve everything chocolate; from organic chocolate truffles to moist chocolate cakes to hot chocolate and even chocolate ganache smothered sourdough toast.”

Leverage New Ways of Building Loyalty

To date, over 147 Capetonians have enthusiastically contributed in excess 0f ZAR 66,000 ($USD 6000) via the African crowd-funding platform Thundafund.com in order to help de Klerk and Gird to realise the concept of establishing Cape Town’s first Chocolate Café.

Cleverly, the pair have sold a kind of chocolate ‘bond’  in their future business to their greatest fans. Willing ‘chocolate bondholders’ can use SnapScan a mobile payments phone app from South Africa’s Standard Bank to purchase ‘chocolate rewards’ in store.

Honest Chocolate is combining internet economy marketing ploys with old fashioned appeal to subvert their fans’ loyal taste buds. As one recent customer put it, “You have ruined all other dark chocolates for me….thought I’d let you know’.

Learn How to Pitch for Funding from the Public

Links and Resources Mentioned In This Podcast Episode

 

Thanks to our guests and thanks to you!

A very special thanks to today’s guests, Michael de Klerk and Anthony Gird for sharing their tips and advice from their journey so far. Thanks especially to you for listening to today’s podcast here on makemoneywithfood.com, home of the food entrepreneur! If you have suggestions or tips to help us serve you in any way, please let us know.

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About Author

Mark Hayes - Editor

Graduating after 4 years at Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland, Mark worked in hospitality and restaurant management roles for ClubMed, Disney (in both Florida and Paris, France), Sheraton Hotels (Frankfurt, Germany) as well as management positions in restaurant chains in the UK. Mark completed an MBA in 2010 with a master's thesis focused on food franchise operations. Through interviewing food business owners, franchise-holders and food-vendors, Mark found that he really enjoyed finding out exactly what compels people to start food businesses and what it is they do to make them profitable and rewarding. In recent years, Mark has also run a successful farmer's market business with his parents, both of whom are passionate 'foodies'. From sourcing ingredients to making food by hand, packaging it, pricing it and selling it in a competitive marketplace, Mark wants to help you to make your food startup a success.