The idea for Soul Chocolate began in 2015 with not more than 10 pounds of cacao beans and a tiny refiner. We had no savings for this and no real business experience. But it was thrilling and nerve wracking and it's all we could think or talk about.
(Our first batch of chocolate made with beans from Ghana)
I remember inviting friends over to try our first batches of chocolate. We laid them out on our coffee table. Little broken up pieces with the name of each origin hidden underneath so nobody knew what we were tasting. It was so exciting - sharing the flavours and textures that had originally hooked us. Chatting tasting notes, dreaming up different bar types, envisioning what our factory would look like one day.
(Finalizing a wrapper design for Venezuela 75% chocolate)
Fast forward to 2016, we lucked out and were given access to a commercial kitchen space. It was a room built in the middle of a restaurant with no windows or washroom or privacy but It was perfect. It gave us a place to get creative and build our tiny but mighty brand. During our 12 month stay, Katie focused on chocolate production while I worked as a barista out front. I was fortunate to be in the coffee industry and was able to convince a few shop owners to sell our bars. I remember showing a friend our space and he told me to take a picture of that moment, as one day we'd grow out of it. At that time it was really hard to believe that could ever be the case.
(Working away in our commercial kitchen space)
In 2017, we left the kitchen space for our own storefront. It all had to happen pretty quick and in 3 months we had signed a lease, built out a shop and started up production. We had windows! We had our own espresso bar! And for the next year (minus Christmas because if you know Katie, Christmas is the best thing ever), Katie and I worked every single day making chocolate, serving people delicious coffee and treats and growing our business.
(Katie planning the layout of our retail space)
Over the next few years we worked with our heads down and found other passionate individuals to join us. In 2019 we had produced over 7000kg of chocolate out of our tiny 400sq. ft location. Thats like 2 elephants - Ive seen an elephant and they're huge!
(Importing our first tonne of cacao from Venezuela)
2020 so far has been a whirlwind. We paused operations from mid March until mid June. Business ground to a halt as it did for many others. During this time it gave us the ability to reflect on our business, looking for other metrics outside of volume to measure success.
This has allowed us to connect with different producers within our supply chain who approach business and life like we do. The ones who are happy to share parts of their process with us. The ones who go out of their way to make an outstanding product. It has allowed us to feel that same excitement we shared in our early days of chocolate making, only this time through every single thing we use at our shop. Our hats go off to our newest partners: Sheldon Creek Dairy for their milk, Emerald Grasslands for their butter, and Brodflour for their fresh milled flour.
(The photo to remind us of our roots, and to smile)
What I've realized so far is that nothing is certain. Plans may shift in an instant, and that is okay. Because when we surround ourselves with what makes us proud, or happy, or excited, or what gets us grinning from ear to ear, it makes those hard days just melt away.
I can tell you my stomach still fills with butterflies when I dream of the next five years and what it'll hold. I'm excited and curious for whats around the corner.