The last 8 weeks have had many long nights. We sent our first order to Colombia. We released our infused bars and Tuesday night, culminated with a special evening at 21c Hotel in Bentonville.
Wal-Mart? what is that about? The Bentonville Farmer's Market has provided a treasure trove of opportunities for Kyya. Every Friday night since spring has been spent prepping for market and then the early Saturday wake-up call. We have met so many people at Saturday market including but not to limited to Celebrate Magazine, Whole Foods, WalMart Open Call, Hershey, Fosters Pint and Plate, 21c and some great regular customers. But a few weeks ago while we were on the road evangelizing Kyya in Kansas., WalMart called and left a message.
When we returned the call, they told us they wanted 40 special spark bars (that's the new logo they use on their stores). We politely turned down the opportunity. 40 bars is not worth the resources involved creating a new bar. Our first Kyya bar design took 2 months, and while we can do it much more efficiently now, 40 bars is simply not worth it.
But I asked a question that I was trained to ask in Sales 101 training. Why? Why do you need 40 special bars and why not have a current vendor do it? Why Kyya?
What we learned from that question changed the course of Kyya forever. Because it led to Tuesday evening when we were given the forum, 10 uninterrupted minutes, to share the Kyya story with 40 of the most influential millennials in the United States and the WalMart senior brass in the form of a private chocolate tasting party at an event called EMERGE. We brought 24 different chocolates to share and got to hang out with Barrett Baber from "The Voice".
We are still in awe that we got invited to share Kyya with world's largest company and their invited guests. Kyya brought a cornucopia of chocolates with us, to showcase some of the best chocolate in the country and we sent each blogger home with a few of their favorites. It has been a crazy 3 weeks, building up inventory, while machines were crashing, our first shipment to Colombia, working on our nano-batches of chocolate getting ready for the holiday release including a new mold, a work of art, for the Bark bar.
Taking a step back, Kyya started as Forgotten Chocolate three years ago. I was serving as a board of director on a Fayetteville non-profit on a trip to Kampala. On the trip home, looking for a way to support an orphanage I fell in love with, I googled the Uganda Natural Resources on the flight from Entebbe to Kilgari and refined from Kilgari to Brussels and then further refined from Brussels to Chicago. I initially invested $22K to start the company, and while our sales people couldn't sell, I didn't give up. It was when my wife, my partner of 25 years, came alongside, the company finally get traction and started to move forward in earnest. We have had partners come and go, lots of challenges, but we continued to work through it.
But the pinnacle of the evening was when a gentleman came up to Cindy (my wife) and started asking detailed probing questions....we can't believe the doors that are opening. As my old Microsoft buddies say "the train left the station, hang on and enjoy the ride".
Start-ups are hard. There is no such things as an overnight success. It takes a special kind of grit to create something from nothing when it seems at first that no one cares. We have had Lots of 2AM nights and even more 4AM wakeup calls this year, but we can see the fruition of our labor starting to shine. My dad always said, "anything worthwhile will be hard work, otherwise anyone could do it".
We are thankful for our team and wanted share this huge milestone with our customers and fans.