First off - thanks. We are overwhelmed with what has happened over the past 90 days.
Let's see, over 3,000 school kids have toured the factory, eaten chocolate and gotten a glimpse into a small team making some of the best chocolate around. We've created 45 new chocolates this year, added 50 new retailers and exhibited over 250 events.
Prior to Kyya, we spent 25 years in manufacturing, sales, engineering and operations (XBOX), which has given us a unique perspective to create a truly innovative factory (with 7 chocolate conches aka chocolate making machines with 2 more on order). We built our own cacao roaster because we had built custom ovens at Baxter Healthcare early in our career and wanted to bring our process expertise to chocolate. We built our own winnower because quite frankly most commercially available equipment was junk.
We knew Master Brothers, Amano, Vosges, Askinoise, Olive and Sinclair and Tcho that had blazed trails before us. We knew we had to take a different path otherwise we would look like a copycat out for a quick buck.
And we came from a different place. Having 4 adopted daughters and spent 2 decades helping in orphan and adoption groups, ministries and non-profits, we aren't the prototypical background for chocolate makers. Our hearts were broken in 2012 in the midst of a slum in Kampala while serving on the board of a non-profit trip we took over the holidays. We had to do "something" more than a monthly donation and so we chose chocolate, but the chocolate would have to have our signature on it.
We spent 6 months doing batch after batch, understanding the chemistry, the delicacies of roasting, winnowing and recipes and pairing/flavors of chocolate. Learning the origin notes and searching for documentation that just didn't exist. We're not coming from pastry/culinary background, so we see things differently. We're about the long game - foodies first, manufacturing people second with 10+ years of sales experience. We love meeting people, sharing what we learned in the 1500+ batches of chocolate we made in 2017.
But all that didn't satisfy people who love to create. So we started a custom bar program. Our first custom bar was for The Breast Center (MANA) - a fundraiser bar for ladies who couldn't afford a mammogram, then the JBU bars, and now it's 8-10 custom bars each month. We love the custom bars because 1) it's creative 2) deadlines teach us about teamwork and process and program management and 3) we get to partner with other cool folks along the way.
We invested in a digital printing press to provide agility, giving us the capability to create custom packaging at a cost effective process without requiring ridiculous quantity minimums printers often require.
Another thing that is interesting is how we measure things around here - it used to be bars, the first week we sold chocolate 20 bars (all we could make those first few months). Earlier this year, we changed from bars to weight - November was just a shade over 1.5 Metric tons. We changed it because we don't make just bars anymore and this is a better way to summarize - except we still mold and package each of our bars by hand.
Which brings us to the last 90 days. In early November, we started saturating NWA, and so now we are setting a new radius to "Share our Passion". Then these last 2 weeks have been crazy at our events and in Elm Springs. Thanks for supporting our vision, thanks for stopping by and thanks for playing Mama Kyya contests. We still have a week to before Christmas and plenty of chocolate being made every day until we get to December 25th and which point we'll take time to be with family, rest and fire the conches back up and start all over again.
We won't forget our humble beginnings at the Bentonville Farmer's Market, where we heard the question every week "what's new"? That will always be part of our DNA, creating something new and living outside our comfort zone.
Why Elm Springs people ask? Because 1) we love small towns 2) good people 3) it's 10 minutes from our home 4) the rent is cheap 5) Hwy 112 is a backroad cool.
One last thing, we're not great marketers. But we are some of the most passionate people you will ever meet. Because it's about the chocolate, not some tag phrase or graphic. We just love creating chocolate and sharing the geekiness of chocolate. '
And there's one more bar introducing soon, it's the "Andy". Andy is one of our biggest fans and his bar will be an 88% Bold Dark Chocolate with Blueberries, Cranberries and sliced almonds. Andy has bought so many of these - we are going to name a bar after him so that others can enjoy his creation.
Happy Holidays from the entire Team at Kyya Chocolate.