SEREMBAN: On a small slope, facing an elaborate museum, sits a building no bigger than a classroom.
Its Minangkabau-style roof is often mistaken as part of the Negeri Sembilan museum. The sign on the porch however, declares it to be a chocolate galleria.
For Siti Noraizah Kassim, the founder of Chocsvalley, the shop represents many different things, from her ambition to own a business to her desire to grow it despite the obvious work involved.
And it all began while browsing for goods at a hypermarket in 2012, when it dawned on her that she wanted a business that allowed her time to be more flexible.
For World Chocolate Day today, FMT reached out to see what drives this intrepid entrepreneur.
“I know a lot about promoting products, but I had zero knowledge in baking. My mother bakes delicious cookies for Raya every year. So I figured I could promote my mother’s pineapple tarts,” she told FMT.
Siti Noraizah coaxed Tesco into renting a kiosk to her for a month, but the response to her cookies was so encouraging she ended up operating from the hypermarket for two years.
To cope with demand, she outsourced the making of the cookies and diligently repackaged it. But, the Seremban-born said she wanted to grow her business even bigger.
Not only did she want to expand her range of products, she yearned to set-up a chocolate boutique of her own. Siti Noraizah was confident she could leverage her 15 years of experience in sales and marketing to make this happen.
A chocolate boutique, she explained, meant she could personalise her products and have better control over the quality.
“My own space also meant that I could make my boutique more interactive with chocolate-making sessions, and that would be a pull factor.”
In 2013, while out on a drive, she chanced upon an empty building located on the museum’s grounds, a site which her friends jokingly said was “haunted” but was in reality was much sought after by many established companies.
Fortune favoured her and she started selling assorted chocolate bars, some of which featured the museum’s logo on its wrapper. Soon, companies that wanted to personalise chocolates as door gifts came knocking, and Siti Noraizah’s business grew.
Four years later, she came up with her own packaging and began marketing her brand of Malaysian-made personalised chocolates.
Admitting that it was a challenge to break into the market initially, her almond clusters and coconut truffle are now bestsellers among her clientèle.
“One of the biggest challenges in introducing local chocolate is the perception that it is a western treat and consumers will go for imported brands.”
Chocsvalley in now in its fifth year, and Siti Noraizah has plans to expand her business even further, although she has no plans venturing outside Negeri Sembilan.
The shop, currently manned by four personnel, produces up to 500kg of chocolate a month, chalking up about RM50,000 in revenue.
Siti Noraizah is looking to emulate a boutique in Melbourne, Australia, which has a factory and a cafe.
As for future plans?
“I want to focus on manufacturing chocolate.”