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The sweet smell of success
Kylie Angove is a chocoholic’s dream. The talented small businesswoman handcrafts delectable chocolate from scratch after sourcing the cacao beans in person from Colombia.
The former landscape architect opted for a “sweet change” after starting a family and wanting the flexibility and challenge of running her own business. The result is Chokamour Artisan Chocolate, an award-winning premium chocolate that is available at retailers around Melbourne.
“I source cacao beans directly from the farmers in Colombia and turn them into chocolate as a craft chocolate maker,” Kylie says. “I can also talk to the origin of my beans, which are organic.
“This approach is central to our business and the proof of its success is in the great taste.”
All Chokamour products are made using organic cacao beans sourced through direct trade from the Santander region of north eastern Colombia.
“It was the beans from the mountainous region of Santander in the north-east of Colombia that won our hearts and led us to visit the growers in Colombia in 2017,” Kylie explains on her website.
“Our trip and experience of the country, people and growers had such a strong impact on us that it was the catalyst for us to strive towards only working with suppliers that we have established a direct trade relationship.”
The key to Kylie’s amazing product is simplicity. She uses only cacao and sugar but expertly crafts these basic ingredients into a unique blend that is organic, vegan, gluten-free, direct trade and most importantly appreciated by the fussiest chocolate lovers.
Chokamour’s 65 per cent and 72 per cent bars won Silver at the Australian Food Awards, Australia's leading national premium food awards program, but Kylie felt she needed help to consolidate and build her business.
“I could see what I wanted to do and at the time needed to invest in more equipment but wanted to ensure that I invested in the right things rather than taking a stab in the dark and hoping it would work,” she explains.
“I was looking for someone to help me structure my thinking and to give some direction on how to work out where to start in order to make it a calculated risk. Also, besides the chocolate shop and movie candy bar that I worked in when I was 16 I have not had a career in retail, so this was a world of unknown and I was looking for some insight into this area.”
Kylie heard about SBMS through her local council website, and the Small Business Festival, and chose to work with mentor Trevor Mason.
Trevor has more than 40 years’ retail experience covering a wide range of areas. He held senior management roles that grew businesses from small to large and consulted small to medium retailers to help them move to the next level.
SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
Kylie had six sessions with Trevor over about two years, and mentoring is continuing. Most of their discussions centred around the business plan and financial plan, but also covered the supply chain, manufacturing and capex requirements.
“We went through all aspects of the business and are now into marketing and getting sales,” Trevor says. “During our time, Kylie won the runner up for the best chocolate in Australia. She also visited the farms in Colombia.”
Trevor says that Kylie’s confidence and ‘know-how’ have both grown. “She also has an improved understanding of the processes and we have increased her skills,” he says.
“Kylie is a start-up. This business is part of a lifestyle move for her. Profitability is not critical, but she is slowly getting there as the customer base increases. She can be the best chocolate maker this year.”
Since seeing Trevor, Kylie says she has improved her management skills, reduced her stress levels and managed to balance work and family better. She has also invested more into her business.
Kylie says she still has a long way to go, but having a mentor really helped to provide her with grounding in key areas that have helped to shape the way she approaches her business decisions.
“These include financial considerations and structure, pricing of goods, efficiency in production, more targeted investment in the right equipment,” she says.
“I have also been able to draw on my mentor’s deep retail experience, which has been invaluable in my decision making when looking at taking the leap to move into retail, as well as assess opportunities that have been offered to open in retail spaces.”
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