Friday, August 26, 2011

Lull... aby.

Hi =)

I unfortunately haven't a whole lot to report on in the world of Zimt. Except for the following important things:

  • the vote to scrap the HST and go back to the old PST and GST system of taxation in BC has been approved- so... at least there will be less tax on Zimt chocolate. Eventually. 
  • I have found eco-friendly shipping materials! This means that I will be able to ship Zimt Artisan Chocolates products world wide on a regular basis, very soon. I just need to order the special envelopes, pick them up, and... voila!
  • Greens was happy with how sales have been going- but really nice people work there, so maybe this is a less accurate representation of financial reality than what I need. ... I am happy that they are happy. 
  • My friend, Katie Kitson of Juicy Juice Bar had another open-house, where I brought many chocolate bars. She is having another one tonight and you should attend! I would, except it is my mum's wedding rehearsal dinner tonight and, as I'm the maid of honour, I should probably attend that. She will make you fantastic food, which you can order all week round. It is a particularly convenient and healthy option for those working in downtown Vancouver, BC. 
  • I made 120 truffles for the vegan couple's wedding- they are so, so nice. The couple, I mean. The truffles are nice as well! 
  • I made 107 truffles for my mum's wedding (which is tomorrow (!!!)), and as we only need 96... I also enjoyed a good amount of truffles yesterday with my friend Joelle. 
  • Joelle and her cousin and his girlfriend visited the kitchen yesterday- her cousin is interested in also starting his own business one day, though he wants to work for another company first. This is usually how it goes... but I was a little desperate, didn't know where to work, and, since chocolate is the answer 98% of the time, decided to just jump in. 

More about that topic- one thing I find difficult about starting a business fresh off the bat (other than... hm, everything) is seeing what my peers are up to, and how they are gaining more immediate financial rewards for their work.  Many of them have moved out of their homes ("Thanks for feeding me all these years, Mom and Dad, but now I can buy my own groceries and figure out how to pay rent with this fatty cheque I get each month."- kidding...) and are putting their degrees to good use. They do get a lot of "mentoring", I hear. This is because you don't really learn how to work in a company at business school. This skill is learned on the job. But there's some security, isn't there? It is like you are still in school- you get to keep learning, and you also get paid. The learning is also more practical. I often question why I got this business degree- not that I am not thankful for it. Having "BCom" behind my name must be good for something (credibility, perhaps). Or, it would be, but I keep forgetting to put that on my business cards when I have them printed. Round three will be different.  

There are still a million things to do- most of which I am probably not aware of. And I am thankful for this bit of a break, to read up on investing, pursue a bit more modelling, help out with the wedding, see some friends, and even sleep!

Enjoy the sunshine and pick some blackberries =)


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cheaper Chocolate?


I really must keep this quick (I solemnly promise that). Here are some things going on in the land of Zimt:

Little kitchen work: While this is quite a nice change in one respect, it also represents a lack of orders- not so good. The issue seems to be that people are not wanting to pay over $5 for a little bar of chocolate, which I can understand.  But I was skyping with Karl yesterday, and he started calculating on the spot how many bars I would be selling per hour, and said that this was a good number. ... I am not so sure, as impressive as the calculations were.  So, I think I will have to redo my pricing quite a bit- because, quite frankly, despite these bars being made, by hand, in micro batches, from some of the best ingredients in the world, people are only willing to pay so much! I hope that they sell out quickly so I can get another order in with a new price list.

To Ship or Not: The real thing is getting the eco-friendly shipping materials (at first, and I have located these- ... they are expensive), and then, being able to keep up with that demand (second). I have not approached bigger retail locations, and I am trying to sort out if it will be too much demand to keep up with, should they hop on board, in addition to shipping worldwide, via my website.  I think I should do the online shipping first, see what the demand is (who knows- maybe that will be plenty. I mean, I've tried raw chocolate from many places and.... well... not to brag... =) ) and go from there.

Other than that, I've been feeling a little lazy, from the lack of kitchen work. I did update the Zimt website, though- check out the yummy bar pics! (Taken by yours truly's blackberry =) ).

Also! I am going to be re-doing the labels to include (primarily) English names for the bars- I believe people were getting confused. My friend, Sabrina, has also kindly offered to help me do some illustrations, to make the variety of bar a bit more recognizable. (Dankeschön, Sabrina!!!)

Here's a question (and it is a very risky one I should probably not be putting on my blog, but there you go- I am. And I can remove it if I really think necessary.): How much would you, realistically, be willing to pay for a Zimt chocolate bar? (Realistically. And "Can I pay in hugs?" is not an option, no. Sorry!) I know how much they can realistically cost- do we meet on that?



Sunday, August 14, 2011

2 weddings and a Tweet

Hi =)

I'm in the process of making my Twitter account more... active. I knew I had reserved @zimtchocolates months ago, but Twitter seemed like a bit of a fad and just one more thing to worry about. And indeed it will be one more thing to worry about, but all the cool kids are doing it!

@zimt was already taken (I think I've found the creator and messaged him via FB) and @zimtartisanchocolates is too long.

Anyway- an update since... Thursday, I think.

Thursday I was running all over the city in the morning- first to Nice Shoes to replenish stock, then to Greens to make a brief appearance at their promo day, and then....  in the kitchen, dutifully making chocolate. Unfortunately, the chocolate didn't really turn out... the nectar wasn't properly mixed into the rest of it, and kid of separated, leaving the chocolate looking dewy. Nice for grass, not so nice for chocolate. But I really like learning how the chocolate behaves- I notice new aspects every time I really look.
Anyway... I think I fixed it. I met with a vegan couple, who wanted some truffles for their wedding. Normally, I'd not do truffles, but... they're a very kind couple and deserve nice vegan things at their wedding- and I am honoured that they chose my truffles to be these nice vegan things! Their wedding is the same day as my mom's. That's many truffles, and I had actualyl wanted to move away from doing truffles, as the bars take up enough time as is, and, wow, the truffles are so time intensive. But they (the couples) are worth it. .... may be the last time I do the truffle thing, though! (For now, of course!)

Then it was back to the kitchen for a good long while... and then biking home. It is a lovely bike ride home.

But not so lovely, that it deterred me entirely from having a pity party at who knows when. I think it involved me trying not to pass out in front of my computer, and whining about how being a trophy wife would've been a lot easier.

Then, I realized something. Or, I became more actively aware of something- I know it in the back of my head, but sometimes, when I get caught up in the sheer volume of things that need to be done, the many little things cloud the bigger picture. Anyway, I said to myself, "Emma- do you really want to be in the same place you are now this time next year? Because if you just whine about things, that's what's going to happen. So stop whining, take responsibility for what you started, and get the job done.". So that's what I did. I kind of went into machine-mode and just.... worked. A lot. Nothing complicated- after working so much during the day, my brain only has so much energy left. But I got lots done- and I'm happy I did. Because this time next year, I don't want to be in the same place I am now. As much as I love learning about business at such a grass-roots level, the rate at which I'm going now is totally unsustainable. It just makes no sense and cannot be done- I actually would not make it.

So that's why I've got to be smart about things, plan better, and seriously start thinking about hiring an oompa loompa.

Friday... which was... wow, only yesterday, alright, Friday was busy. I thought I had an order for 200 chocolate bars, but it ended up being only 100 (which I found out after melting a whole lot of cacao butter... hm.). Anyway, I still made I'm not even sure how many bars, then went to package them. ... did that for a long time. Wandered over part-way to wherever there was a clock, noticed the time and thought, "Wow- this is taking a lot longer than expected." and then wandered back to finish up.

Saturday... aka, today... I went for a walk with my mom. I just had to- she basically had to peel me out of bed, but it happened! And then I vacuumed my house (another great incentive to making a real financial living... outsourcing house-work. Please....), got ready to head out to Karmavore and drop off a donation at the church.  I sampled chocolate (as in, I provided others with samples) today at Karmavore for about 4 hours. It was nice! Everyone who works there is really kind and people loved the chocolate, and were quite surpirsed of it's healthy-ness.

After Karmavore, I drove to the Animal Voices and Earthsave potluck, to donate more chocolate as a raffle prize- it was lovely. There's a real community and it's great to see people I've known for years.

Stopped in to say hello to my friend, Nazlee (finally- I've only been saying I'd do that for... months.) and now I am here. Sorting out Twitter...

I think that all of this social media and cyber-presence can be a great thing for business- it really allows a connection between businesses and their customers and other supporters. ... but man is it time consuming! (Not that you all aren't worth it =) ).

Off to Tweet...


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pent up demand.

Hi Everyone,

I'm going to keep this one short (... really. I'm serious this time.), as I've got to make a chocolate delivery/ ultimate frisbee appearance/ break from re-writing my website content to comply with CFIA standards.

Here's an update:

Apparently, the chocolates are doing very well. I went into Greens on Monday night with my friend Mia and had a nice chat with a cashier who was so happy to have a healthy, raw chocolate in store- she said it provided a great opportunity to spread the word on the benefits of raw cacao and other super foods (which, I am not allowed to mention about on my website, because it is not allowed by the CFIA and they threatened that my chocolates would be taken off of store shelves if I did not change the content to adhere to their standards.). Question: Why is it that foods that are legitimately unhealthy (I'm thinking dairy yogurts, dairy cheese (that is mostly plastic...) and cholesterol-laden, battery-cage eggs) are allowed to be toted as being healthy, and raw chocolate made my yours truly is not? Answer: My product does not stimulate the economy as much as dairy, eggs, and meat. Woops. Oh it is unfortunately quite bureaucratic, so much so, that getting really quality, essential information out there is nearly impossible- at least via written means. 

When does this infringe upon free-speech, I wonder? People can say whatever they like- I think that it is also partially the consumer's responsibility to learn about what products they are purchasing.  After all, people want to be informed about where their money is going, and what it is doing for them.  There's the time issue... of course. These regulations are put in place to, apparently, shield consumers from being misled. Maybe misleading others does not count if you are a large, subsidized industry.

So might I exercise my right to free... type by stating:

Zimt Artisan Chocolates specializes in hand-made, micro-batch chocolate that is made of fair-trade, organic, raw ingredients and are suitable for those following a vegan diet and those with diabetes.  The ingredients and final product are dairy-free,  gluten-free, soy-free, and low-glycemic.  The chocolate bars are also delicious, and children, surprisingly enough, are very fond of them, despite their high cacao (and anti-oxidant) content.

... please don't e-mail me anymore, CFIA! I'm really not trying to push any buttons but I mean, are there not greater battles out there to fight? Pick them wisely, I suggest.

In other news...

I gave my grandma chocolate for her birthday, which was yesterday. My little cousin thought it was her birthday, apparently, and kind of went to town on the present. She's 18. Haha. (My cousin is. My grandma turned 76 and doesn't look a day over 60. It's all that good raw cacao- and maybe a life of luxury.)

My friend, Vanessa, and I took a trip down to Seattle today where I picked up some more specialty coffee for the Kaffee bar. I'm looking to find a comparable variety that is local, though. A bit tricky... this one is really, really good.

Local cookbook author, and culinary guru, Dreena Burton of and some rather amazing cook books, including Vive le Vegan, The Everyday Vegan, and Eat Drink and Be Vegan, is going to be featuring me on her blog! What an honour! Vanessa and I dropped off a few chocolate bars for her to try. ... hope she likes them. I met her a few years ago while volunteering at Earthsave's Taste of Health event- she was demoing how to make some of her famous cookies- they're just beyond delicious.

... that was a bit shorter.

Enjoy your Thursday =)


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Vancouver- I give you very special chocolate!

Hi Everyone =)

It is official- those infamous Zimt chocolate bars are on the loose!

After getting to the kitchen this morning, to make two bars of Chocolate Coconut Fudge I realized had been missing at about midnight, I headed over to Greens (of Greens Natural and Organic Market) to drop off 220 chocolate bars.

They're not particularly voluminousness, but... in numbers like that, even a small box is pretty heavy.

Anyway, there are 36 (not 34...) Chocolate Coconut Fudge, 36 Coconut Crisp, 36 Süß Orange Nib, 36 Naranja Rica, 36 Meine Minze, and 36 Vanilla Caramel bars within Greens' possession right now! All they have to do, apparently, is enter the UPC codes into the system.

I should send them the file I have of them to make the job easier.

For all my fellow mathletes out there, you may have totaled only 216 chocolate bars.... and you would be right! But don't forget about those 4 prize ones- buy a lot of Meine Minzes for a chance to win some more bars.

And, Nice Shoes also has a few bars- get them while you can, is all I can say. Those coffee ones won't last. I mean, if you buy one, try a bite, and like it even half as much as I do, well, that's just game over- I might as well thank you for your life-savings right now. ... kidding. =)

My friend Lois is visiting for England, and before she took off for a visit to Vancouver Island yesterday, she helped me with a chocolate photoshoot. It was great! (Best part? Getting to eat the models =) ).

It was sort of an evolution....

The first images looked like this:

Which made us think of this: 

Hmmmm... perhaps we could do a bit better than that!

So with my now fully-functioning, thanks to Karl, BlackBerry (which my Dad bought for me used on Amazon- avoiding new electronics is a good idea, because the components they are made of are so environmentally destructive... just be careful where/who you buy from!), we came up with these (not yet edited!):

A step up, no?

This is probably a good opportunity to address some questions that may have come up just while looking at these photos, such as:

1. Why does the chocolate look a bit white on the surface?
2. Why don't you use an actual camera to take photos of your product? Even a point-and-shoot is better than a 5mp BlackBerry, Emma.


1. Great question! White can appear on chocolate for a number of reasons, and on my chocolate for one more reason than those. Basically, white-ness on the surface of the chocolate can indicate that the chocolate is "blooming"- this is nothing bad at all and the chocolate can still be not only consumed, but also enjoyed. Blooming does not affect the taste of the chocolate- it just means that the cocoa butter has separated from the rest of the chocolate. It's still good- no worries! Blooming can occur due to changes in temperature and can also appear as white circles on the chocolate surface. Water coming into contact with chocolate can also cause blooming, and can even damage the chocolate, causing it to seize.

On this chocolate, though, the whiteness is actually from coconut oil. It made its way through the chocolate from the ganache centre and ended up at the surface. I added too much coconut oil in that ganache recipe and thought it would still be okay. And it is- but it just looks a tad funny. (Still tastes really good, though, don't worry.)

2. I used to have such a camera! My mom got it for me for my 18th birthday using AirMiles. It kind of gave up on me while I was backpacking/couchsurfing/woofing through Europe last summer, which serves me right as I took a billion pictures probably fell asleep on it a few times in overnight trains/ferries/buses/planes.

So there you have it- feel updated!


Zimt for Everybody!

Hi Everyone,

Tomorrow is the long awaited day- Zimt Artisan Chocolates chocolate bars will be available in retail stores! Two to start:  Nice Shoes (on Fraser, between 19th and 20th) and Greens Natural and Organic Market (on West Broadway, near Maple Street). 

I can't believe it- this is the start of something very exciting. 

A couple of things... maybe I'll just give a brief update on how the day went.

So on Wednesday, I was feeling pretty beat. I made a solemn vow to myself that I would stay in my house all day on Friday, maybe even in my room, and avoid the rest of humanity, and just recoup. Needless to say, that definitely did not happen. I was running around today like crazy, as is my custom, and spent an unexpected 4 hours in the kitchen. While I was driving (to what was supposed to be with the end-goal of home), I was thinking about some of the Meine Minze bars I had been packaging earlier that day. I wasn't happy with them.   A couple of them had been broken- not badly, just once between the pieces, but they really weren't as perfect as I wanted them to be. I was tired. I didn't have any extras. I didn't want to make any more. I tried to tell myself that, hey, the ingredients are fantastic- so what if they're a little broken? That's how they are going to end up anyway... (unless people eat gourmet chocolate bars in one bite. Doubtful.). 

But I just couldn't convince myself. 

What if the person buying that bar had been on a cleanse or something, deprived of really good chocolate, and had been so looking forward to a peppermint ganache filled bar, only to get something that would not be totally perfect? Or, what if, a mom were buying a Meine Minze for her health-food loving kid, only to find out that it was broken way after she bought it? What if a skeptic bought it, saw the quality was less than supreme, and then became only more skeptical? What if people are spending their hard-earned money on what has been described as being the highest quality product, and it is just not up to standards?

... that wouldn't do. 

So, it was off to the kitchen. To make 4 more Meine Minze bars. And, I thought, a few more of the other varieties  just in case they were not perfect enough either. 

I can't really believe that making 16 chocolate bars took 4 hours, but I look at it this way- it is an investment. It isn't like I do this on a regular basis, and it isn't like I will need to do this on a regular basis. This is a new product line- it's time to set the standard for what will be offered in the future. 

Anyway.... none of the Meine Minze bars should be broken now. I realized that I am two short of the Chocolate Coconut Fudge bars, so I will be heading to the kitchen at the church tomorrow morning to work on those two (I hope it does not take that long.) before I head to Greens and Nice. 

Lots more to mention, but I will just have to close with this- check whichever bar you get carefully- because you may just win another Zimt Artisan Chocolates bar! (Kind of like a golden ticket from Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, but I can't offer that yet, because if I were to give people a tour of my chocolate factory, it would go something like this:

"So, this is the corner where I store my ingredients and small equipment. The storage containers are made of recycled plastic. I bought them in the States after finding them listed on the Office Depot website, and finding that the location in Richmond that went out of business did not have any more. Instead of a massive chocolate water fall, I have a chocolate melter I spent my life savings on which can melt up to 6 kg of chocolate- both the waterfall and the melter are equally impressive, I'm sure. I was my dishes in that sink before putting them through that dish washer. And over here is where I put my laptop- I try to watch foreign movies or videos on technical analysis while I make the chocolate and fillings, but the industrial refrigerators are usually too loud for me to hear what's going on, because this is an HP, and, well, the speaker quality is inferior. I just bought it because they mentioned ethical labour practices on their website. I don't have any full-time Oompa Loompas. but my mom sometimes stops in on her way home from work to say hello and help with dishes. ... there is no glass elevator, and don't try licking the walls, please- it's regular paint, not flavoured wall paper. Questions?")

Hope you can stop by Greens and/or Nice! Lots of locations are yet to come.... and do I ever need to plan for that!

Happy Saturday =)


Monday, August 1, 2011

Aaaaaand face-plant.


So, a really quick update:

- I made a lot of chocolate yesterday. Kitty helped me, as did my Mom, and it was a great experience for everyone, in my opinion. I'm sure Kitty feels the same way, as there's nothing more wonderful than spending a sunny Saturday afternoon in a commercial kitchen space. Hahahah- I owe so many people so much chocolate.

- I just realized that the UPC codes are the same on two of the labels. I'm figuring out how to fix this issue.

- Working out more pricing... had a small freak-out this evening, when I miscalculated raw materials costs as being about 2.5 as much as they should be. For a second there, I thought I was a bit doomed. I love the numbers, though- 8-)

- The price of coconut oil has skyrocketed. I just checked my records from a month ago to the current price and e-mailed the supplier. How it can increase by 63% is a little frightening, but I think I have found a solution. Hopefully.

- Karl sent me a charger for my BlackBerry! Now I can check my e-mail at all times and take more pictures of my chocolate. Thank you for the very unexpected gift, Karl! ... the pink flip phone just wasn't cutting it.

- My food processor is playing dead more and more frequently. I think it's trying to tell me something... (but what????).

- The church kitchen I operate out of is fantastic and, although I usually really don't like cooking or baking or anything domestic, I really don't mind making chocolate there- it's really peaceful and less of a gong show than whatever goes on at my house. I try to make a conscious effort to be really peaceful when I am making the chocolate- good vibes.

- Somewhat unrelated to Zimt, but a funny story none-the-less: my neighbours go out of town every August, and if I'm around, they ask me to take care of the house (watering plants, feeding fish, etc.). And every August I'm around, I say, "Sure- would love to.". And every August, I water the plants and feed the fish and set off the alarm and the apathetic alarm guy (AAG) calls and it sounds a bit like this:

Me: "Hi- um, I'm really sorry, but the alarm keeps going off- I'm just watering the plants and feeding the fish- ummm... sorry, it's so loud. I forgot the code. I didn't even write it down. Isn't that ridiculous? I'm the neighbour- could you please just tell me the code? I know it's something like ---- but I think I am messing up the last number-"

AAG: "Nah, can't do that."

Me: "... no?"

AAG: "Don't have their code."

Me: ".... actually? Well... could you just make it be quiet anyway?"

AAG: ....

And this happens several times, and then the neighbours call, I get the code, vow not to forget it, and am kind of late getting to the kitchen, because I also had to vacuum our house, too, which takes a lot of time, and I think back to when I was living in Germany and all I had to vacuum was a few square meters and be done with it.

And then I go make chocolate.

... these are never quick updates.

Enjoy your Monday!