How did you get into the chocolate business?
Our business started 10 years ago when my wife and I were part of an international community that moved to Governors Bay to help create a new approach to business. The vision for the community had been developed by international spiritual teacher Bernie Prior.
So why chocolate you may ask? The initial business we had was a beautiful bay view restaurant called SHE Cafe - an acronym for Spiritual Human Evolution. The intention was to invite customers and staff into a vibrant, co-creative environment that was uplifting, inspiring and educational.
By definition a creative business is constantly evolving so chocolate was the next major addition to the offering. Our head chocolatier, Oonagh Browne, is a former IT project manager with Procter & Gamble and discovered a love and passion for chocolate. The business started with one chocolate product - decadent dates - which are now sold throughout New Zealand.
At the time the chocolate kitchen was created out of a converted bathroom in Oonagh's home.
After selling at many farmers markets and much experimentation SHE Chocolat was created as a combined company with SHE Cafe. The cafe has become something of a chocolate mecca, where we hold chocolate-themed events, and we also have a chocolate school and chocolate kitchen underneath the restaurant where customers can view the chocolates being created. We also sell online and through a number of wholesalers throughout New Zealand.
What's the Easter period like in the business?
Easter is fantastic as it's a time to be creative and showcase what we do. The whole country is chocolate crazy so it's great to be able to create amazing eggs and other chocolate Easter treats. It is challenging, though, to expand our capacity in the business for particular seasons. Unlike some European countries that have a long tradition of chocolate making, New Zealanders seem to run hot and cold with their love of chocolate. However, Easter is a time when people are willing to splash out and spend a little extra for something special.
You've got a 'chocolate bus' as part of your business. What is it and how does it fit in with the rest of your venture?
We bought the bus prior to the earthquakes and it arrived in Christchurch on the day of the first big quake in September 2010. It's a 1947 London double-decker, complete with an onboard chocolate cafe. Initially we used the bus to run inspirational tours of Christchurch, travelling around and sharing with visitors and locals the stories of famous Cantabrians and other New Zealanders who had achieved greatness and impacted the world in a unique way - a tour about human potential supported by wonderful chocolate. Since the earthquakes and the closure of the central city, the bus has been used as a relief vehicle to support communities in fundraising efforts and uplift the hearts of young and old in Christchurch.
The bus' engine, however, is now in need of replacement and we want to raise funds through Pledge Me to do this; we're running a campaign to raise $25,000 by Easter. We then plan to create the SHE Universe Charitable Trust to be able to support and give back to the community and continue our chocolate relief efforts.
We believe that if you are in business for what you can get, you will make a living, but if you're in business for what you can give you will make a life.
What's your vision for the future of your chocolate business?
To change the world, to create inspiring workplaces, and to support a change in culture around business, community and society - one chocolate at a time. Everything we put our love into and create has the potential to inspire and uplift another. Business can be a vehicle to promote the collective good of everyone - in our community, country and the world - and together we are part of the solution. Everything we make has meaning and we want to be part of making a difference in the world.
To learn more about SHE Chocolat's chocolate bus Pledge Me campaign visit:
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