What’s All the Bliss About Chocolate?


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Whyfearing.com’ers, meet Emma Smith—

College grad turned chocoholic, ethical entrepreneur, and helper of people, animals and the planet on the way.  Owner of Zimt  - raw, vegan, organic, fair trade chocolate

WHYFEARING.COM: Emma, what’s your business and how did it get started?

EMMA: I hardly know where to begin. After I spent some time on exchange, backpacking and coaster hanging in Europe for a year, I returned to Vancouver and I had a degree to finish and life to figure out (who doesn’t?). I wanted to sort out what I was going to do once I graduated. I’d been working for a local company at the time, and I wanted to keep going with them and see what I could do for them after I graduated. But as time went on, I realized that my employers and I were not a great fit.

”I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew that whatever I did, I wanted to be ethical, I wanted to make my money off doing something good, and bringing people and animals and the planet something good.”

WHYFEARING.COM: So what did you do?

EMMA: I thought, “Ok, what am I going to do?” I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew that whatever I did, I wanted to be ethical, I wanted to make my money off doing something good, and bringing people and animals and the planet something good.

WHYFEARING.COM: Right on.

EMMA: So, I started thinking of different ideas. The prospect of working for another company didn’t really cross my mind. It would have been a lot easier, but I just didn’t think about it. So, I was thinking about what ‘business’ is, and thinking about what I value and appreciate, and what is missing in the market.

WHYFEARING.COM: And that’s where the chocolate comes in?

EMMA: Yes, chocolate! It’s a good one— everyone loves chocolate, I love chocolate, it’s a good product and it can be even better: I wanted to make chocolate ethical. So, I went to work for my chocolate company, Zimt Artisan Chocolates.

WHYFEARING.COM:  So did you have to quit your current job?

EMMA: Yes, I did, and I had to finish up my exams while I was building my company. . . slowly but surely. It was so scary.

WHYFEARING.COM: You were doing your exams and in the off-time that you had, you were building your business? 

“In my mind, my schooling had ended— I just had to figure out how to make chocolate, and how to make it good.”

EMMA: I was into my last term of school. I remember sitting in class and I had absolutely no idea what the prof was saying, not even knowing at what point it was during the class. In my mind, my schooling had ended— I just had to figure out how to make chocolate, and how to make it good. There’s the ingredients, the packaging. . .Oh, my gosh—  packaging is such a nightmare!

WHYFEARING.COM: You were done. The school was done in your mind.

EMMA: School done, yes. I mean, I’m glad I got my degree (it’s nice to have that bit of an accomplishment, I guess), though for me there’s so much more to accomplish in life.

WHYFEARING.COM: You finished school and then was your income coming in immediately?

“I incorporated in February 2011 before I’ve ever made chocolate. I didn’t even know how to make chocolate at that point.”

EMMA: It was still summer, and I was still in that student mind frame of, “Oh, you know, it’s May, June, July, August— that’s summer.” I was thinking that I would do my best and just figure stuff out, work really hard at it, but I didn’t really have any expectations for myself at that point. “I’m just going to do my best and try not to screw up too much,” I was thinking.

“’Go for it!’. . . So, I just went for it.”

 

WHYFEARING.COM: So how many years has Zimt been around for?

EMMA: I incorporated in February 2011 before I’ve ever made chocolate. I didn’t even know how to make chocolate at that point. I knew I’d just feel better once I had incorporated, figured out the shares and structure and everything. I didn’t know if it was right, but I spoke with people. “Go for it! You’ll be fine!” is what I heard. So, I just went for it. At first I was only on farmer’s markets and stuff. Little farmer’s markets, not even the big ones. I remember the first place I was selling Zimt was in a barn. I was in a barn with the horses and my family came to visit me while I was selling. My grandma just looked so disappointed.

WHYFEARING.COM: That’s hilarious.

EMMA: Oh yeah! I mean, here’s her little granddaughter, the first and only grandchild to graduate from university. And here she is in a barn selling chocolate, hanging out with farm animals.

WHYFEARING.COM: You knew nothing about chocolate making before?

EMMA: No. I’d made some pseudo raw chocolate before with coconut oil and stuff. But it’s just so different what I am doing now, completely. I could not sell that . . . Well, I guess, I could sell that stuff in stores, but the quality of what I have now is totally different.

WHYFEARING.COM: When you started by selling it to farmer’s markets, were you just making it at home at that point?

EMMA: At that point I was still making it at home. I was looking for a kitchen space to use, which is really, really tough to find. So, I had to start it at home, practicing and practicing. And I remember, that summer I hardly left the kitchen.

“It wasn’t the best chocolate, but it was made with a lot of love.”

I just finished making my first order for chocolate for a church I’d been attending at the time, and they were really nice there. “Oh yeah. She’s starting out making these chocolates,” people would say and get the word out, which was really sweet. So, I finished my last exam on the Wednesday before Easter Sunday. I still didn’t know how to make chocolate, because I still had been sourcing ingredients up until that point. And I didn’t even have the equipment. I would just come in my kitchen and do my work. It wasn’t the best chocolate, but it was made with a lot of love.

WHYFEARING.COM: How did you get your commercial space?

EMMA: Get this:  I was at the bank one day, and the bank was closed. This woman came out of the bank, and she said, “Oh, honey, the bank is closed on Monday. Are you ok? Are you broke?” I said, “Oh, no, I’m alright, I’m just depositing a check. It’s for my new business.”  She said, “Oh, that’s so great! What’s your business?” We got talking. “Well, do you need kitchen space?’” she said.       The lady said, ‘Just go four blocks that way, and at such-and-such a church they rent out kitchen space, which I am sure you can use.” I’d been contacting a priest, or whoever, asking them if I could use kitchen space in the churches. I hadn’t really gotten much in the way of replies, including this church. I mentioned that to the lady and she said, “Oh, you just go ask them directly. Do it in person.” So I went and, yeah, I’m still manufacturing at that church. It makes me feel so good to be there.

WHYFEARING.COM: That’s so cool. So, from those days, how has your business changed over the last year? Are you selling in stores now.

EMMA: Yes, my business is so different now.

WHYFEARING.COM:  Is it a one-man show?

EMMA: I am really thankful that my family helps me, because there is no way I could do it otherwise. They help me when I need it. I’m still trying to get a finished product I’m really satisfied with. I’m happy with the recipes, you know, which is great, because at first I don’t know how many chocolate recipes I made that were pretty gross. My family and friends were nice, but they didn’t sugarcoat it: “This is some pretty bad chocolate, Emma” (laughing). I knew it.  So, I worked on the recipes and I worked on the ingredients, making changes to be sure that I’m always getting the best to hand to people. And then processes are changing a little bit, too, and I’m not on barns anymore (not that there’s anything wrong with barns. . . I love barns).

WHYFEARING.COM: Good for you.

EMMA: Thank you. I’ve got good friends and good support.

WHYFEARING.COM: That’s a big step in a year:  you went from selling in barns and farmer’s markets to being in Whole Foods?

EMMA: Both have their pros (laughing). I want to keep expanding, and I’ve got so many ideas, new ideas, all the time. So, it’s really being able to properly manage and streamline, make sure I’m using my time efficiently, and really treasuring the time that others give me and using it efficiently.

WHYFEARING.COM: So, you are pretty busy these days, I imagine, with all this?

EMMA: A lot of people ask me, “Oh, is that a full-time job?” I think, “It’s more than full-time job.” But that’s ok. Building things takes time, and it’s a good product and it’s worth investing in. This kind of work is beneficial to those around you.

WHYFEARING.COM: So with all these hours and all the effort that it takes, what’s fueling you?

EMMA: What’s really fueling me is what I am expecting of it, and its potential. It’s huge, I mean. It doesn’t have to be limited by me, cookie-cutter thing. The impact I can have on other people’s lives— the animals’ lives — is really big. I’ll be able to provide for my family so that I’d be able to give myself all I have always wanted. That’s really big for me. Because at the end of the day, you’ve got to take care of yourself. That’s really important, otherwise you can’t take care of anything else.

WHYFEARING.COM: What’s an average day look like for you right now?

EMMA: It depends on whether mother or I get the kitchen. If I have kitchen space available, I’m usually there making chocolate or packaging chocolate.

WHYFEARING.COM: You do all your own packaging as well?

EMMA: Yes, the packaging. This is tough. This is the most difficult part hands down, and it’s changing, now especially; it’s going to look completely different in a few months hopefully. It’s the same product on the inside, but very different on the outside. Hopefully, just a lot more streamlined and easier managed.

WHYFEARING.COM: What’s cool, though, is that it sounds like from the very beginning, you’ve learnt the entire process. You know how to do it all yourself. When you do expand, when you do bring out people to help you, they are going to know exactly what’s involved.

EMMA: Oh yeah. I’m right now going (or Zimt is going) through the organic certification process. It’s been a lot of work, like tons and tons of paperwork, but it’s also a very great opportunity to make things more streamlined.

WHYFEARING.COM: Explain.

EMMA: Every time you open that Zimt bar, just appreciate how much love and patience has gone into wrapping it.

WHYFEARING.COM: So, when you get into kitchen you are cooking, wrapping. . . What about the days when you are not? Do you take days off? Does that exist right now?

EMMA: No, I don’t. . . I’m a little bit of a workaholic. I always want to keep going, I don’t want to stagnate. It’s not to say that I don’t love and cherish time, the quality time, with loved ones. But if I can work. . .

WHYFEARING.COM: You’ll be working.

EMMA: I’ll be working. People are so good with me. . . they know it’s for a good cause.

WHYFEARING.COM: The term ‘work’ can mean two different things when you are doing something passionately that you love. It’s not work in that traditional sense of something you have to do. If you are just doing what you love so much, that’s great!

EMMA: And for me that includes Excel charts. I love Excel charts; it’s like a hobby for me. I do my production, my administration and my sales. Some people could see me working my life away, but I’m good.

WHYFEARING.COM: If you were to give any advice to someone, a year ago, years before you had a start, what would you say?  “You just went for it,” it sounds like you decided in your mind. You had business cards made, incorporated before you even knew how to make chocolate.

EMMA: Do what you promise.

“Be a stickler at every point and don’t give up. . . it has such a global impact.”

WHYFEARING.COM: What promises are you keeping with your chocolate?

EMMA:    The chocolate itself is raw cacao, just cocoa powder.

WHYFEARING.COM: Super good for you.

EMMA: It’s very, very good for you and very powerful: really high anti-oxidant and good nutrients. I use coconut nectar to sweeten it, so it’s diabetic friendly and it’s all vegan; that’s my # 1 thing. I wanted it to be good to the animals. It’s gluten free and soy free, there’s no emulsifiers in it. Chocolate with a different flavor; I use organic essential oils sometimes, depending on the flavor.

WHYFEARING.COM: And it’s all hand-made, too?

EMMA:  In microbatches. Right now I make it in 5-kilogram batches. And the packaging is the best I can do. I get these little wrappers custom made and they are all biodegradable. The sticker-wrapper around the chocolate is made of post-consumer recycled paper. The print is even eco-toner.

WHYFEARING.COM:  When people are buying your chocolate, they are paying for all those things. It’s like giving, by eating chocolate.

EMMA: I would say, you know, be a stickler at every point and don’t give up. Some people don’t really consider the packaging to be that important. They are more focused on the inside product, in this case. But just because the end consumer doesn’t necessarily value that as much, it has such a global impact, and so taking that into account is important, too.

WHYFEARING.COM: So what’s next?

EMMA: Oh, man, big things! Yeah, big things. I’m really excited; there is . . . I mean, yesterday there was a bit of a ‘my-brain’s-gonna-explode day.’ And I think being able to specialize in one sort of product, really, is not limiting especially when it’s chocolate: there’s so much that can be done with it! All my ideas will hopefully be as quick as I want them to go. There’s just tons, and I think people will be very excited and really will enjoy what’s coming.

WHYFEARING.COM: Sounds like you are excited.

It’s caveman-approved.”

EMMA: Totally. This afternoon I have to go to Canada Post and see how much it will cost to get refrigerated shipments to Australia. It’s a guy in Australia; he wants this chocolate! The guy’s so keen, I feel like I should ship him a factory or something. It’s crazy. He’s saying, “I’ve tried a few other brands, but this chocolate’s perfect: the ingredients are perfect, it’s the quality I want.” My chocolate is paleo-friendly. I say that it’s caveman-approved.

WHYFEARING.COM: That’s very impressive, Emma. Thanks for your time today. We know you’re super busy. It’s inspiring to meet someone who’s really going for it at such a young age.

 

Find out more about Zimt and Emma at her site - here

Thanks to Aliette Frank for editing – visit her site here 

Whyfearing.com was created with the goal of inspiring people to come alive and live the life they have always wanted by introducing them to people have already done it or are in the middle of doing it . 
Success can mean alot of things. Its a loaded word in that our culture has attached having lots of money, fame, possessions and praise to it. We dont look at success this way. A word that would better describe an optimal life is being fulfilled. Spending your time doing what makes you forget time. You might make money at it, you might have other ways of making money so you can do it, you might not make any money. What matters is that you love what you do and somehow you created your life so you can do more of it. We believe there are alot of unsung heroes out there living life to the fullest that can be examples and inspiration. If you are someone or know someone like this please contact us below.

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