Friday, July 29, 2011

They really love me. And by me, I mean my chocolate.


Hmmm- it seems to be after midnight again and I still have not dedicated enough time to learning about technical analysis today, but I sure did live, eat, and breathe Zimt!

A couple of updates:

Yesterday I went to IGA to get my barcodes checked, to see if they would scan. I ended up chatting with the manager, who programmed the codes into their system, and he actually seemed interested in carrying my hand-made, fair trade, vegan, organic, raw chocolate at his IGA branch. Hm. I think that is flattering! It really shows that people are becoming more interested in this type of product and lifestyle, which is fantastic. It's a good thing to support.

The barcodes work, by the by (!!!!!!!!).

I had a good long chat with one organic certification company- it seems like it would be quite do-able to get done, if there were three of me. The process is not hard and it sounds like I'm ahead of the game in some respects anyway. The woman I spoke with was talking of manufacturers who don't use proper cleaner (mine is commercial kitchen approved, and also all-natural, vegan, and smells like oregano =) ), or who grease pans with non-organic olive oil (just because it isn't a big part of the recipe.... does not mean it is not there.). These things puzzle me.
Anyway, the process seems fairly long, and I am debating whether or not to go through with it. I think I should, just because people appreciate certification of the final product. I mean, all of my ingredients are organic (every. single. one.)- but that little symbol on the front of a wrapper can make a big difference.  And this is the symbol I may not have until my products are certified.

In other news, I made some exceptionally delicious chocolate yesterday. I don't know what made it so good. But when I got to the kitchen this morning, it hadn't set properly. I pried it out of the molds anyway, because I had tweaked some recipes and wanted to see how they'd turned out (I gave some to the kind staff of the church whose kitchen I get to use), and... wow. Wowowowowowowow. It was chocolate coma time! Not to brag or anything, but I made some really phenomenal chocolate. (Just sayin'.). Even the plain chocolate was off the charts. I am going to experiment a bit more tomorrow... but really, ridiculously good. I usually don't even like my plane chocolate, but there you go- this was beyond amazing.

My new favourite, though... is the kaffee- you can taste the sophistication. I experimented with two different types of beans: the first one was very, very good. When I tried it, I was a bit floored.

But then the second one happened. And that was just... I don't think there are words to describe. So that bean is the winner, yay!

Aside from the recipes, other exciting retail news: Zimt Artisan Chocolates will have bars available in Greens Organic and Natural Market on Broadway starting next week! 6 SKUs- I'm honoured and very, very happy (though only slightly worried about being able to churn out that much chocolate with two hands that also have to spend a lot of time working on the books.). So Greens joins the list of where Zimt chocolate bars will soon call "home". Others include....

Nice Shoes  Vancouver's vegan shoe store, also selling vegan bags and accessories, as well as some pretty spiffy lip balm and umbrellas made of recycled materials that has a penguin picture on it- amazing! This weekend, Nice Shoes will donate 10% of their sales to the Battered Women's Support Services- a very worthy cause, and you do deserve some nice shoes anyway... some very, very nice shoes.)
Karmavore  all vegan amazing store! Complete with a deli to satisfy your nacho and chick'n nugget cravings.
Divine Elements  wonderful naturopathic clinic. If you're not feeling 100%... well, they make sure you will.

I sat down and had a chat with the owner and a very kind manager as well, and.... they kind of went nuts for the chocolate- that makes me happy. I brought them one of each to sample and I'm pleased with the feedback!

I will study techincal analysis tomorrow- repeat! I try to watch some Youtube videos of it while I am making chocolate, but the internet peaces out a lot and my speakers are not so excellent, making learning a little bit difficult. (Cry me a river). Tomorrow (as in, officially today, I guess...) is another day.

I feel I got a decent amount of items ticked off my To-Do list, all things considered.

Better get some sleep- a prospective tenant is coming by tomorrow. As in, in 8 hours. Oh my.


In yet more news-

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

When life gives you bureaucracy...

... it'll also give you a picnic with a two-year old to make things all better!

Yesterday (or... technically day-before yesterday, as this post is starting after midnight) I was out in White Rock at the home of Vanessa, RHN and founder of Get Real Nutrition  Our friend Chloe and her two-year-old son, Gage, graced us with their presence and Gage also happened to make my day.

I know that the chocolate I make is pretty intense- especially the three nib'd varieties. Dark chocolate with cacao bean nibs does not seem like your typical "kid-approved" treat. ... but that is exactly what it became yesterday, when Gage's first go at dessert was a chocolate nib'd heart. He totally devoured it! And kept asking for more "chawkowate" and once I explained to Chloe the type of sweetener I use in the chocolate, she was very pro-toddler-eating-more-chocolate. And did he ever- I think he'll have to become an official taste-tester one day.... soon =)

It always makes me happy to know that kids get good healthy things to eat, and that what they eat didn't cause any less fortunate kids in other countries any harm. Lots of cocoa products are produced using child labour- how is it fair for kids, or anyone, more financially well-off to reap the benefits of other's unreasonable work?  That's one reason why I am hoping to provide Zimt Artisan Chocolates as special Halloween treats to trick-or-treaters - a big goal for this year, but it could happen!

Anyway, it was a nice perk to the day that seemed to be drown-out by website content restrictions- lots and lots of regulations are in effect to prevent people from making certain nutrient claims, if they have not been "scientifically" proven.
I'd really like to get into this more, because it is an important topic,  but it's an early morning with a long to-do list ahead, so I'll call it quits for now.

Wow- we made it to Wednesday!


Sunday, July 24, 2011

... they didn't teach me this in business school.

Hello =)

Not entirely sure where to begin this one, but a slight update could be a good idea.

I don't quite remember what I did since leaving off- I'll give it my best shot.

Social obligations are both a blessing and a major source of stress for the young entrepreneur. On the one hand, I love seeing my friends and getting to know people. On the other hand, my mind is unfortunately only half there while I am spending time with my friends and getting to know people. The other half (or, realistically, three quarters.... unfortunately) of my mind is thinking about how I didn't finish recording my inventory, how I need to come up with a better system for recording my inventory, my lack of understanding of tax laws, how I need to modify ingredient quantities in recipes to make things more efficient, and a great many other things.

Much of where my mind wanders is to areas that I really shouldn't worry about. Or, shouldn't have to worry about. I have spent a lot (a lot) of time behind the books, in lectures, and even at conferences, all for business school, but I've noticed a common trend: None of this taught me how to start a business.  Did Econ101, International Business, Commercial Law, or Business Statistics teach me how to approach retailers, effectively price my product, and do my taxes? Unfortunately not. These courses gave me the opportunity to learn a lot of really interesting things, many of which I'm sure would be useful in other careers, but they just couldn't teach me some of the things I really have had to adapt to and deal with.  And so, the learning curve is still steep.

... but I did approach a major (in my opinion), retailer today. It was a big, scary step, but continuing to put it off wasn't going to get me anywhere. I think that the wisest thing to do at this point is to learn from those who have figured this all out before me- the seasoned pros. I feel very blessed to have such willingly-helpful connections to look to, and will just have to take advantage of their help. It is on tomorrow's to-do list, as well as:

1. writing the cheque to my commercial kitchen (a bit tricky, since it is in a church and they are very kindly flexible- "Just make a donation"- I don't want it to be a skimpy one, though, and I can't pay them in chocolate. At least not entirely.)
2. Set up online ordering on my site (and figure out how to do that Google version of PayPal on it. So confused.)
3. Order eco-friendly shipping materials
4. Fix my website content to comply with CFIA standards- I am not allowed to tell anybody that the coconut nectar used is low glycemic and can be enjoyed by those with diabetes, nor that raw cacao has the highest anti-oxidant level on the ORAC scores. (So, don't tell anybody now.)
5. How am I supposed to ship chocolate to people? (I can ask a prof of mine about this- no problem.)
6. Change ingredient quantities based on frame sizes. Oh boy.
7. ... figure out the tax system used in British Columbia.
8. I have an import number. I need an export number.
9. Keep looking for a food-processor and find a good one before my current one blows a fuse.

Here is an important bit of wisdom for the day: Networking can happen in unlikely places, and opportunities present themselves when you do not expect them. I've sold chocolate at different events around town where I did not anticipate a great deal of initial interest. Often, I've been right. But then there is the ripple effect- people try my chocolate, pick up a business card, and next thing I know, I get an e-mail asking if I do catering for large events. ... of course I do! (Let me just get a new food processor that won't keel over any second first.). Word of mouth is a great thing- it's cheap, it's efficient, it gets you places.

... good luck with Monday!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Barcode: This week's final frontier.

Hello =)

It's so funny- there are a million things that I would never have ever thought of before starting this business that now, seem to somewhat haunt me! Think about barcodes, for example: who makes sure that they all scan properly? How do you even get a barcode? Does GS1 Canada send you several formats of barcode options, which you can choose from depending on your packaging specifications, or do they just send you numbers and a booklet of instructions a week after your application is processed? (... it was the latter, fyi.).

This is one unforeseen hurdle I've encountered since December, when "I know.... I'll start a chocolate company!" first popped into my mind. And one that I would never, ever have anticipated to be a problem. They're lines- lines- how difficult can that be?!

Well, more difficult than expected, apparently. But I've gotten most of the steps crossed off the list:
1. register for codes with GS1 Ca
2. call GS1 Ca to figure out what to do with the list of numbers they sent me ("... so... where are the line-y bits, please?")
3. Spend way too much time google-ing barcode generator programs, to get said line-y bits
4. Found a program!
5. ... why is it so low res?
6. ... Kitty, could you please try fixing it?
7. Ummm... actually, it's okay. But thank you! Life is busy, I hear.
8. Exhaust my own resources. Word. Paint. Word. Picassa. Wait, Picassa does nothing for me here. ... Paint? Word? ... ... Word!
9. Print samples....
10. Well that looks different in real life. Maybe it'll scan anyway.
11. Go to IGA "Your barcodes don't work."
12. Go to Chevron: "Yeah, is not in system. You want Chevron to sell your chocolate?" ... desperately. 
13. Find professional.
14. Spend life savings for professional.
15. Repeat steps 11 and 12.
16. Professional was not entirely aware of GS1's standards.
16. Send newly received GS1 Ca standards to professional.
18. Wait in nervous expectation for new quote.
19. "You should really have a splash of colour for each different flavour!" ... ahhhhhhIknowthat!!! "Yes, I was thinking that could be great as well- just trying to sort out the different shades of brown for the Nib'd vs. Kaffee vs. Chocolate Ganache."
20. Present: will help me sort out the different shades for the different flavours. Please.

Today I went to an open house party for my friend Katie Kitson's business, Juicy Juice Bar. She was so kind as to suggest I sell my chocolates there, which I did (... so what if she bought and ate most of them herself? Appreciation is appreciation!). Anyway, the chocolate looked phenomenal, if I may say so myself.  And it was lovely to hear all the positive feedback! I wish I could have brought more flavours, but I didn't get out of the kitchen until after 4pm, then rushed home, then tried to package the last little bit up, decided there wasn't time for that, was questioned if I planned on brushing my hair before trying to represent my company or if looking like a bag lady was a better approach for selling chocolate, successfully brushed hair (it was a very good day. Indeed.), found out that I was insured for the courtesy car (no way I was allowed to drive the SUV I just backed into the neighbour's brand-new, grass-coloured, parked vehicle. ... oops. Increased insurance premiums can count for my grad present...), and successfully made it to Juicy Juice Bar without hitting anything!

Told you it was a good day =)


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Getting There! And explaining the inexplicable.

Very tired- but a few things of note:

1. the eco-friendly cling wrap came in the post today. Very excited about this- I felt terribly guilty for using the regular stuff.

2. I need to go collect my date stamp in Blaine. It's the eco-friendly model, and not available in Canada, so thank you USofA for being so close by! Anyway, I am not sure when I will have the opportunity to do this.

3. I recently re-discouvered this site: This is fantastic for two main reasons:

   a) I now have access to eco-friendly shipping materials and will be able to ship my product around the world (note to self- make sure I've got that export number...)
   b) They have eco-friendly tape! No more using sticky notes made of recycled materials wherever I could avoid using tape. Not quite the same thing!

Explaining the inexplicable. Well, I would really love to delve into this a bit deeper, but for now, I will say that unless one has begun his or her own small business, I don't care how many business plans you've made up, if you've gone to business school, or any such thing- and especially nothing of any sort of those things- this is tough work, goes way  beyond nine to five (hence, my blogging at 24 past midnight) and.... patience is greatly appreciated. It isn't like I find having Excel Parties ideal, nor do I really enjoy dragging friends along to run errands, just so that I can chat a bit with them and they will not have to watch me type (the other option. Yeah, errands are preferable for sure.) but it is how it is for now and I do reckon it'll get a tad more stressful before it gets any easier.

Another similar topic- being a people pleaser and start-up starter-upper can be a disastrous combination. I often find myself convincing myself of really cutting out Zimt time so that I can go make my friends happy by doing what they want to do. Again, I would love to have time to go sit on the beach and go shopping and then go back to the beach and then get dinner and then go see a movie, but, honestly... are you kidding me?! Neither time nor money are particularly... ample- not at this stage of the game. It is something I am working towards, though. As is gently letting people know (especially those I have not known for all too long) that I can't drop everything and go hang out. Especially after friends I have known for years are getting too little of my attention. But this is all a matter of gaining a new perspective- most people just don't have to think about rationing time like that (... I may be slightly jealous of them at times.). One day, I will have tons of time (hopefully), to give to all the wonderful people whose path cross mine.

But before that day comes, I will have to make (and sell), a lot a lot a lot of chocolate.

Website building time.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

FedEx at 1 am Fun.

Hello =)

A bit of an update on Zimt is overdue- then again, things have been.... busy.

I think that a couple of things are to be of note (I'll try to keep this short. Really.)

1. Product Integrity
2. Company Integrity (it's all in the details... which include glue).
3. Paying up- when getting it done is worth the price.

A couple of weeks ago, I had received a product from a supplier that was, to spare the details, not up to standard- quality wise. I wrote them about the issue I found with the product and they gave me several somewhat confusing options, including (as I deciphered): 1. keeping the product ("If you feel comfortable with it."- No....) 2. sending back the product (they would pay for shipping and send me a replacement, and would charge me for the replacement until they got the original, unacceptable product in return- my credit card really loved that one!) 3. ... another option I'm a bit too tired to remember right now.

Basically- I want to provide my customers with the best product possible. I don't want to ignore defects or issues that should not be, even though I could get away with it. Yes, it is an inconvenience- last night after spending some time with a dear friend, and after crating around this shipment to return, I thought enough was enough, and went to the FedEx office slightly before midnight (open 24 hours- very convenient!). It took over an hour to fill out the paperwork, including making an account online for the FDA (???? alright.), but that was the option for the situation. Just ignoring the problem was not. Although the FedEx employee was really helpful and kind, it was not a fun way to spend a Friday night, but, hey, it goes with the territory.  There is no Friday-at-5pm-I-am-done-until-Monday-at-9. No way. I'm the one responsible for providing a safe, quality product and if I limited myself to 40 hours a week, well, I just don't see those standards being adhered to! One day... it'll be a little easier.

Glue. It keeps the wrappers together. I've got the plant-cellulose fiber bags for the chocolate, but for the wrapper, well, I needed 100% post-consumer recycled paper and... glue to hold it together! I am not even entirely sure what goes into regular Elmer's glue, but there is no specific attempt to make it environmentally stable, or at least this is not advertised (and you bet they would advertise it!). So, a couple of months ago, I started looking up other options. First I tried to make my own glue. Out of rice... it's possible! But didn't work quite well. So, after I don't know how many hours of Google-ing "eco friendly glue", "environmentally-friendly glue", and ""green" glue", I finally found something.
Only problem was, those wishing to purchase had  to use a US credit card... which I sure don't have. But, I do have American friends, and my friend Kiley kindly allowed me to use his CC info to order. And then brought it up to Canada with him this weekend. I just met him downtown to pick it up and.... now I have eco-friendly glue! I bought lots, so I shouldn't have to bug him again about it for quite some time =) (Thanks a million, Kiley!)

It's all in the details. Regular glue would not do- walking the walk means the whole stride, not just wherever your feet end up.

And about those labels...

I was quite done with fiddling with Paint and Word and bothering friends to help me, so, (and I think I already mentioned this), I hired a pro. And now the UPC barcodes are no longer fuzzy! They work in retail locations. Once they get printed (on that 100% PC paper, using vegetable dyes, of course), and the counter displays are formatted and printed, then it is off to retail locations throughout Vancouver (and apparently one on the Sunshine Coast, thanks to my friend Jaymee who has connections.).
There came a point when I was just so frustrated with not getting anywhere despite the effort. Getting somewhere is going to cost a pretty penny, but it is an investment. Without it, the labels would not be done, and I would not be able  to sell Zimt chocolates in stores, and doing so is really the goal anyway! So, don't spend a ton of time working on something you don't understand. Don't waste other people's time who also don't understand but are trying to help, and... make an investment! A better product in the end is worth it.

Thank you for reading =)


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Teeter teeter.


The past 24 or so hours have gone a little something like this:

I met a friend to chat about investing and how to be successful with managing a stock portfolio. It was really interesting and I think will be a very good use of my time to learn and practice.

Then, I went out to Langley to a free concert with some members of my youth group. I felt pretty guilty about taking a night away from Zimt, and attempted to justify this in claiming it was a sacrifice of my time to be spending an evening listening to Jesus music and not going around in circles trying to figure out how to format labels. Anyway, by the time I was ready to work again, it was about 2 am. I tried my best, writing some incomprehensible, desperate e-mails to a friend who had agreed to help me with the aforementioned labels and even managed to successfully upload the nutrition facts tables to (check it out! now you can know exactly how many calories you are consuming, making actually eating the chocolate substantially less enjoyable. But it is a requirement of the CFIA to list it, so there you have it.)

I woke up almost 5 hours later and wrote some slightly more understandable e-mails to this friend, but still just as desperate. I can't believe how this packaging thing is dragging on. It has, without a doubt, been one of the most frustrating aspects of the whole process.  Sourcing suppliers, cost structures, nutrition fact calculation, materials and equipment- a learning process, but do-able, the website, well, finally figured that out (simple is sometimes best.)... but the packaging. Wow. I don't even know where to begin. These past few months have been way too full of my begging friends with any photoshop, illustrator, any design program- know-how for help.

There are a couple of problems with this:

1. working with friends can be tricky- what about payment? Most of the time, I have found that friends do not want to accept any sort of financial compensation. There's a problem with this, though, too. Without a formal work agreement, well, things just don't get done. I will be the first to admit that I am hopeless in this packaging business- I have no clue where to begin. Had I known, I would have just found the right professional and gotten it done. But my friends are nice- many offered to help. And as much as I appreciate this offer, it sometimes does not materialize into actual... results.  Which leads to...

2. people have their own lives. My friends know me, I know my friends, we go way back, etc etc. I am not a big, scary boss any of them want to impress. I am not a key (at least it seems for now) reference that they would want to put on their resume. Basically, what would helping me out with this label stuff benefit them? It sounds harsh, but it is totally understandable- Zimt is not their company, it is mine. If I'm not able to provide them with what they need or want, and there are more fun ways they can spend their time, then there really isn't a huge incentive to helping me out. Aside from just... helping me out. (Karma anyone????)

3. I (again) have no clue what is going on. One minute, somebody is thrilled to help me. They want to do this- just send over the files and, bam, they'll be done before you know it, Emma.  Several months later, "Oh yeah... that....". I don't know how to coordinate people properly yet so as to frustrate them as little as possible. When someone does not get something done soon and I don't hear from them on a consistent enough basis, I go and find someone else (or at least try). What do I even ask them to do, precisely? When do I need this done by? Is that unreasonable? If I don't get it done by then, the date I will be able to sell retail will be pushed way back. What about the barcodes- should I ask them for help before I find the right program to generate the codes? How can I bug these kind people as little as possible? Were I to be more familiar with the process of packaging and label design, this would be a lot less stressful. I know my friends get frustrated with me (lack of clarity, and "Ummm... this is what the printing company said- what were they really talking about? Is the format I sent to you okay for that?"), but I can almost bet that it is just as bad for me as for them! I feel terrible for taking up so much of their time. But I'm kind of hanging on a thread here. And I only get by with a lot of help from my friends.

This whole packaging problem would pretty much disappear, by-the-way, if there were a home printer that used eco-friendly ink. I could just print from home, the labels are so simple. I've even got some really nice paper made from left over banana tree plant, post harvest, that I like to print on. But the ink... not so eco-friendly. And so, it's off to find a printing company that can provide not only 100% post consumer paper, but also vegetable-based inks (not whatever chemicals my own printer uses... sigh).

So that's what I tried to work on today. The packaging. It was a rather draining process and, to be quite honest, did not go so well so far. It was basically another day of my staring at my computer screen, attempting to teach myself how to use this editing program I accidentally downloaded in German and cannot change the language settings for , then resorting back to good old Paint, then even Word (... that's embarrassing), and living off of left-over chocolate fillings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, because I really didn't want to take time to cook. There was confusing formatting to be done.

Anyway, as wonderful as it was to have a work party with Genie today, I ended up just feeling super drained and incredibly confused about this whole labeling thing. It is particularly frustrating because I know it would be so quick for a pro to do. And so I've contacted a few.

I did end up going to karate with my mom, because there's only so much cabin-fever + seemingly-impossible- tech-stuff I can take and I was going completely nuts. Plus getting nowhere.

So here's the moral of the story (or morals...):

1. try to figure out as best as possible what you want/need for your product before asking around for help- your friends will likely hate you a lot less if you take this route as opposed to giving them vague ideas or "Well, I was thinking maybe of this, but I really have no clue- what do you think?" Answer: They don't think. It's your company, figure it out yourself. Delegate. If they want to give their opinion, be open to it, but honestly, it is highly likely that they do not care nearly as much as you do.

2. find the right people to ask for help. Just because your friend can make pretty designs in photoshop does not mean that he or she knows how to format labels properly for printing. Ask people if they know of a professional who could help you with your project. Once you find that professional... get some references and check out their portfolio.

3. Do not attempt to live on less than 5 hours of sleep and excessive amounts of ganache. It's really unhealthy, both physically and mentally, and you will likely feel very sick if you go take a karate class after even one day of living such a lifestyle.

Tomorrow's a new day. This post was way too long (again. Apparently I just like ranting.). I'm going to get more than 5 hours of sleep, get my day in order, get out of the house for a decent amount of time, and not live off of recipe tester left-overs.

I trust you will do the same =)


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

To Do:

1. call eco friendly plastic wrap distributor to ask about why the check-out bit of their site is causing me grief
2. fix labels and send off (!!!!!!!!! ASAP- this should be #1!!!!)
3. fill out web host forms (thank you, Karl- and happy birthday!)
4. check up on display case formatting progress (thanks, Kitty!)
5. contact retail locations... exciting!
6. update private orders sheet
7. new inventory tracking system
8. upload nutrition tables
9. scan labels to CFIA, both versions. Well, both of the small versions.
10. test stickers on bags
11. call re: display cases
12. remember all of the other items that should be on that list and write them down before they are again temporarily forgotten


Monday, July 11, 2011

It's 22:26 (10:26 pm)- time to get to work!

Hello There =)

Thanks for stopping by.

As promised yesterday, I will go over a bit more of Zimt's history, my history, and set out some goals for the week.

I think that Zimt's history started far before I ever thought of creating a business having anything to do with chocolate. Zimt is somewhat of a direct result of just, well... me. I wouldn't have started this company, this company in particular, if I didn't have this inherent entrepreneurial nature. I remember one summer party, from more than a decade ago, where I decided to try my hand at making a rose infusion to sell as perfume to the guests (aunties were the main target =) ). Maybe it was at the same family party, maybe another one, but I know I thought I had a brilliant idea when I came up with selling bags of hand-sifted garden soil.

Kids are creative.... and apparently I have not grown up!

After mucking about in my garden and finding creative business-y outlets in the yard, I had really found a very keen interest, namely, mucking about, finding something people may want, and making it available. Pretty standard formula, but rather unusual as well.

Things got a little high-tech after that. In the sixth grade, I recall drawing up prototypes for a "super-thin, super-light" Macbook Air-esque laptop. Of course, this was 2001, and of course, the dimensions were for a monitor with a 1 cm thickness- anything less was quite impossible (thought she, who still knows nothing techy.).

High school came, as did the option whether to take another home economics course or to go for the business education option.  The majority flocked to the option of making muffins and sewing for three hours a week, but not me. Nope- check mark right next to the Biz Ed option, right off the bat. Those who could not be accommodated in Home Ec due to space restraints became my class mates... The next couple of years included my entering business plan competitions (looking back, I can't even believe those plans got any sort of mention- I don't think I even looked at financials.) and planning an eco-friendly, fair-trade clothing line. Pretty radical, considering I was the only person I knew who shopped at American Apparel, soley because it claimed to be "sweatshop free" (nobody cared about that then. And most don't now. Their marketing and CEO's actions have prompted me to... move on.). Anyway, I just noticed that their products were not made of sustainable materials, and thought that ought to be improved upon.

Then came the big question- after graduation, what are you going to do? My mom wanted me to go to university, so of course I did that, and to my surprise, got into the Sauder School of Business- right off the bat (not to brag...). I knew I wanted to start my own business, though, and thought that this would just be a good "back-up  plan"- I know, who does 4 years of intense business school as a back-up plan? Hi! Anyway, I am sure that my experience there has been invaluable. I did meet a lot of nice people.

During my second year in the program, I became acquainted with the raw food lifestyle. I'd best not delve into too much detail, but I had anticipated working with an established company in this field after graduating. Not starting it- working for one that already exists. This seemed like a really secure option- a job, a nine-to-five. Pretty standard... but of course making a living promoting what I believe in. All the summer work and odd jobs I've had have always been carefully chosen- I have never wanted to earn my money by causing harm to others. So, working for companies that condone sweatshop labour, animal testing or any other form of exploitation just would not work.

Anyway, the owner of the company had been made aware that I wanted to work at a more corporate level, but I got the sense that this was not what he really wanted. So instead of forcing my boss to give me a job he really didn't want me to give... I went back to my roots. My entrepreneurial, sifted-garden-soil roots and got my thinking cap on.

This cap took me from moving companies, to consulting, to manufacturing a product similar to the one that this company I'd been working for was making. I had settled on the latter- the start-up costs were certainly less than the moving company and it was a pursuit I was much more familiar with.

But it didn't feel right.

It felt kind of illegal- surely I couldn't just modify one of their products and expect everyone to be okay with it. So I kept thinking.

And thinking.

And... thinking.

And just before Christmas... I came up with Zimt. A raw chocolate company. One which provided the best of all worlds- beyond taste, beyond personal health, but also ethics and some (if I may be so bold) pretty innovative chocolate.

Great idea! How come nobody thought of this sooner?

Better question: Why not do some due-diligence and find out that people have thought of this before, Emma?

And due-diligence I did! What an initially disheartening experience- I found my idea no longer so innovative and thought that the market was saturated- I would be without my business and would have to go work in a bank or be in a cubical for 8 hours each day hearing "I want those reports on my desk by 3pm.". These are both poor options for someone with my personality.

So I took a step back, took a deeeeeeep breath, and realized: Vancouver needs some good raw chocolate.

Some really good raw chocolate- some truly good raw chocolate.

Needless to say, my final term of business school was not so academically-oriented. I was Zimt crazy. So what if I've never made any chocolate before in my life, much less, raw chocolate? So what if I get weary glances and "Oh... oh that could perhaps... interesting" or "Hahaha- well that's a nice idea, Emma. You go make chocolate" over and over again from people I really look up to? So what if I was told I should "just become a model" after I graduate?

Zimt was officially mine and I was going to go through (and am sure still will) many near all-nighters of chocolate making. It's really not so bad now- I've taught myself, with the help of the good old internet, how one can make chocolate and special considerations with making raw chocolate. I found filling recipes, tweaked, tweaked, and tweaked some more until I was satisfied with the results, found suppliers, did recipe cost analysis until Excel may as well have been imprinted on the insides of my eyelids, poured countless amounts of time and energy (and countable dollars) into testing recipes, tearing my hair out with packaging issues, freaking out about supplying for big-deal-for-Emma-not-for-profit bake-sales when I just couldn't get the texture of the chocolate right (I mean, I had made it once before, what was the matter with me???), complete and utter website despair ("Oh, yes, I mean, I own the URL, but please don't look at the site before I have a chance to fix the pictures... which I will learn how to do soon. I don't understand technology."),  and, right, actually learning how to make chocolate.

This is not to say that I've got it all figured out. Oh definitely not! But I'm just going to keep at it until I can stop mooching off my mom and can instead afford to buy my own groceries and not have to ration my vegan toothpaste. It'll happen.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure this will (hopefully...) be one of the longest posts ever on the Zimt Artisan Chocolates blog- and a much deserved high-five if you've made it this far. And, that eco-friendly, BPA-and- PVC-free plastic wrap isn't going to order itself. Also on the to-do list is to format the labels for the small bars, remove the non-governmentally-approved health claims on my website (I just don't know how I will otherwise be able to convey that Zimt Artisan Chocolates makes diabetic-friendly, enzymatically rich, coconut-oil-metabolism-boosting chocolate that, if you're anything like my mom, will make your skin softer and help you to lose weight even after eating a pound of it on Mother's Day), and.... call my website host to ask them about transferring the domain registration.

So enjoy your night- rest-up before you head off to work tomorrow!



Sunday, July 10, 2011

Welcome Welcome

Hi Everyone,

Thanks very much for stopping by!

Welcome to my new blog, detailing the journey that is my business, Zimt Artisan Chocolates. There are two main goals:

1. to bring a real transparency to all levels of Zimt- I want people to know what is going on so that they might fully trust and enjoy what Zimt has to offer.  I have been told that I hold some pretty impossible standards- and I want people to know that I am going to continue on this path of perfectionism in all aspects of my business.

2. I hope to offer an view from the inside- I, like most, have never started a business before, and I reckon this will at least provide people with a very real look at all of the many, many ups and downs that starting and running a business brings. I've made business plans before, I just graduated from an "esteemed" business school, I've helped with my family's small business but nothing, nothing could have prepared me for this!

So, to jump right into things, I'm going to keep working on my label formatting now. I want to have things ready to send off to the printing company by tomorrow morning (only 28 minutes away...), and there won't be much time to get things done tomorrow, as it is my family's last day in Vancouver and I should really avoid ignoring them, because they are amazing and I love them very much.

Tomorrow, the aim is to provide a bit more history about Zimt, and outline my remaining goals I set this morning for the week ahead. One of them was to start a Zimt blog... check.