A Community of Heart Breakers…
Yes, it’s been a long while since I last wrote. I sat down a few times to do this, but there was never enough time to bang out some worthy words. Finally the time has come!
You wouldn’t think a whole community could break your heart… but it’s true.
When I started this blog, it was in conjunction with my little vegan chocolate business. Now, 2.5 years since my first post, 4 years since I started the business, there is no chocolate business.
My business was special to me in this context because it was something for me to hang on to when my heart was ripped to threads so long ago.
I wanted to start the first vegan fair trade chocolate company in Canada. I did! And I was one of the few in whole of North America as well. I had a wicked design concept that no chocolatier could touch in this country and my recipes were even better. Aside from a strange reveiw on a webpage, everyone who ate them raved about my treats.
I was obsessed about using packaging that was environmental so I actually designed a box and had it cut from 100% recycled board here in Toronto. Standard and cheap truffle boxes are virgin fibre. It’s ridiculous. I also found recyclable sticker stock and compostable bags. It was a tough and frustrating slough dealing with the packaging. But I didn’t want to be just any chocolatier. I really wanted to business to reflect my values.
Problem was, it didn’t seem like customers with values actually wanted to use their money in conjunction with their values.
I went in with a heads up from two great Toronto vegans who had started vegan businesses. Shoes and accessories. Both now long gone. Toronto is the largest city in all of Canada. Their stores were right beside each other in accessible Kensington Market. Why didn’t their businesses succeed?
After a year of spending too much rent in an eco shop that had labour issues I built a kitchen in the basement of the new vegan grocery store Panacea. It was a natural partnership and I still thank Ken and Pam for allowing me to do that and pay the smallest amount of rent any food business could ever hope to spend.
Throughout the years, where we were a mere 2 minute walk from a busy subway stop, both Panacea and my chocolate business struggled. There were ups and downs (“Hey! I got my products into Vegan Essentials!”, “Shit they’ve increased the price of chocolate again.”) But in the end, at the beginning of 2012, Panacea had to close, and I had to close along with them. When the cheap community minded kitchens charge $25 an hour – you know you’re little food business is destined to fail without a huge cash infusion. Not that it might not have happened otherwise. 2 of 3 wholesalers stopped communication and 2 others who had been interested where also quiet. One of these, a vegan online food distro, ended up closing up a few months after me.
Panacea and I both tired to team up with others to stop the inevitable. I was seeing a business coach for 1.5 years (actually I saw 3!). Something should have clicked, something great should have happened with people who were doing similar things.
What went wrong? Honestly in my case the only thing I could be accused of not doing was becoming a vegan superstar. It seems in this day and age of multiple ways of communication and sending tendrils into millions of households, if you are a private quiet shy person – forget it. If you can’t prove daily you are a witty knowledgeable guru your community forgets you exist. I wrote two cookbooks. The first one came out originally in 2003 – it was one of the first vegan dessert cookbooks to come out. I have my email address on all my books. Do people write? No. Do people know the books exists? Not too many. (Certainly no help from the publishers there. But that’s another story) Would I love people to email me and tell me how the recipes turned out? You bet!
Anyway, my point is that I made damn good chocolate. I thought for sure my business would do well because I had such a niche. I was the ONLY vegan chocolatier in Canada for some time (My friend Stacey continues to produce great raw truffles and chocolate – Live On Chocolate) In the summer I came out with interesting soy and coconut free ice creem flavours. I even tried reaching out to non vegans who had allergy issues. I had painfully little media coverage despite all this.
So you can blame my failed business on lack of marketing savvy – but I counter with the fact that these treats should have sold themselves…
So here I am at the end of 2012, having spent a year trying to figure out how to continue to make my awesome creations without going into debt, no partnerships working out, looking at a list of possible future careers. Dental technician? Horticulturalist? Technical Writer? They all make me laugh at their absurdity. Not absurd careers by any stretch, but absurd for a born vegan chocolatier 🙂
The month before my business closed I actually made a profit. My partner was talking up my chocolates at work and through this my business ended in the black, due to supportive meat eaters. Ironic, but proof my sweets were scrumptious and had potential.
I want to of course thank every single person who supported my businesses and books. Especially those of you who got me new customers by word of mouth. Thank you to everyone who signed up for my newsletter and that read this blog. Thank you to those who ate my chocolate and weren’t even vegan. Thank you to those who gave constructive criticism. Huge thanks to people who gave their time for free or very little. I wish I could have cloned you all!
If you’re interested in what I’m up to next that has to do with veganism send a message to this yahoo.com email address and ask to be put on the list: whitebearchocolate
Running through all my posts in the past few years I have to apologize for all the music that has been taken off line. I was relying on Youtube to provide me with these awesome songs that have to do with broken hearts. About half are no longer there. One link has strangely become a video of of 90’s hardcore boys pulling a scam on Jerry Springer. Funny for sure, but not what I had in mind music wise! Also I included Jackie Wilson’s Lonely Teardrops twice. OOPS! But you have to admit that song is terribly AWESOME!
Broken Heart Vegan Tip #24 While everyone is celebrating their “in love-ness” why don’t you just go ahead and celebrate your broken heartedness? A few Februarys ago I made a broken heart truffle for Valentine’s day. It was a Boston Creem chocolate truffle – probably the first ever made. It had Bavarian creem flavoured ganache, a piece of vanilla cake and was enrobed in dark chocolate. Ingenious if I do say so myself! You gotta just let it out sometimes, just like this post. “My heart was broken and someone is to blame!” You’ll feel so much better, you’ll be able to not take yourself too seriously – which is super important when you have a broken heart! If you can emit even the faintest smile about your broken heart you are on the way to recovery. Soon the pain will be gone and you will be able to make a complicated vegan dessert from Lickin’ the Beaters 2 without messing up! 🙂
Broken Heart Song #24 I never really got this guy. What’s with the purple glasses? Why is his voice so high? Why does he look like my dad without a beard? But this is quite the heartbreak song!