It's hard to believe this is year 5 of Kyya Chocolate. I remember the first year, when we were trying to figure how to sell a chocolate bar. Our first year sales were $5,500. It was discouraging. My quota at Dell Computer was $40,000,000 annually. I remember being up late at night or maybe it was early in the morning, and nothing worked, it was too hot, too humid, the temperer acting up and I just wanted to quit. But grit persevered.
I remember early on when we visited Askinoise and Mast Brothers, leaders in the craft chocolate industry, and was blown away (and still are with both of them).
Now, 5 years later, we have hit our stride. This year. we decided to expand from just the Bentonville Farmer's market and added Rogers and Springdale markets to meet more people. On average, we have had 6 teams in the field on Saturday this spring. We bought the building we moved into in Elm Springs on 9-January. We applied for a utility patent for one of our chocolates, invested in our own large format printer to provide agility and making collaborative custom bars almost daily.
We even decided (based on your input) to make chocolate covered strawberries (some thing we said we would never do) and this week we will make almost 3,500 bars.
For something that started as a blank sheet of paper 5 years ago, we continue to learn and adapt every day as our customers guide us. Along the way, we have had the privilege to teach ~375 people how to play with chocolate aka Chocolatiers. We have given out over 250 chocolatier certificates to some of the most creative kids I have ever seen. Most of our students would give most adults a run for their money. Why ---- 1) they are kid-like, 2) willing to learn, 3) no attitude and a 4) joyful to work with. I still cringe when a kid comes up and gives us a hug and it takes us a few minutes to piece together we met at Kamp Kyya (parents, when that happens, please quickly give us some context if you see the blank look on our faces).
So what's next? Well lots more of the same. We have 10 collaborative bars in process with really cool people we can't wait to share with you. We're almost done with our second single origin chocolate syrup and last night started construction of our second chocolate roaster to keep up with production. As an robotics/electrical engineer, It's been a pleasure to design some of our own equipment and we believe this will be a competitive advantage as we grow. As Our Kyya Spread has sold out 3 batches. And we continue adding retailers...so far 207 retailers as of last night in 10 states. We are going to slowly, methodically cover every inch of his country. Thank my sales friends at Microsoft and Dell for teaching me those skills and my mom for art of storytelling.
I ABSOLUTELY LOVE the creativity that chocolate provides.
And with all that growth, it's still not about chocolate. For those who have heard our story, what drives us are our 4 adopted girls, who are quickly becoming beautiful young ladies. We made the trip to Africa initially to work in a orphanage in one of the slums outside of Kampala. I broke down at the railroad tracks one evening and said we had to do "something". That something, ended up being "chocolate". When it's late at night or we're on the 500th mile for the day, I sometimes have to remind myself that we have it good. We worry about first world problems, whether the latte is perfectly balanced, if the chicken is moist, should we give up on the old Chevy 3500 Express Van yet.
For those who don't know it, we did this before, in fact it's where we learned how to take a step off the cliff with our 4th endeavor we called World Garden, up in Bentonville. World Garden taught us so many things, like giving back to the places we source from and making a difference in the communities around the world. If chocolate can be used as a vehicle to make a difference in this world, then we succeed. If it was about money, we would have stayed at Microsoft or Dell. Those places provided us vast amount of experience and skills, but our little company, Kyya, it has heart...and soul.
So enjoy the contests this weekend, share a bar with a friend, make a difference in the place you are given and also hug your mom for me. Mine went home 15 years ago. When we are pushing up daisies, making a difference will be the only lasting legacy that they will remember us by.
rick boosey, co-founder, kyya chocolate
Arkansas' first bean to bar chocolate company