Entrepreneur chocolatier Siti Izah Kassim admits she has come a long way over the last six years.
Back in 2012 she was selling generic, rebranded cookies from a tiny kiosk in TESCO and today she makes hand-made artisan chocolates, with her customers including royalty.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Siti, but you can see from the smile on her face it was a challenge she relished.
When Siti does something she always wants to do it right, she wants to do it big and she wants to be successful.
“In everything I do, this is me - I wanted something different because I don’t like doing something other people are doing. High quality chocolate is very different and difficult to get right, plus I had to create a market,” she said.
IN THE BEGINNING
Siti was inspired by her mum to sell cookies. She used to bake her own during Hari Raya and Siti thought to herself, why not sell them all-year round and not just during festive occasions.
Siti took a kiosk at TESCO in Seremban 2 selling commercially made cookies with her brand name on the sticker but after a while problems set in. The suppliers could not provide the cookies her customers were buying so she took matters into her own hands.
“Customers were asking if I could custom make the cookies and personalise for them and I suddenly saw a need, people were wanting something different” said Siti.
Her business partner suggested she learn how to make chocolate but at the time Siti thought that chocolate had a stigma of being very expensive, and it was not something people ate every day.
It was then they decided to create a market for the long term and offer a high value artisan chocolate as opposed to making cheap chocolate.
“We set our market entry at middle income then we would raise to premium group,” she said.
Siti took a course on how to make chocolate at the the Malaysia Cocoa board, read a lot about chocolate making and watched a lot of videos, then tested the market - almost immediately, ChocsValley was born and growing legs.
“I had to expand as the small kiosk was not enough and one day I saw the empty building at the museum in Seremban and asked if it was for rent.”
It was a good place for her to be as it offered visitors from overseas as well as locals, it was relatively cheap but more importantly had the space to display her chocolates and had ample room for her demonstrate to visitors the process of making the chocolate - a shop and a factory in one.
“I liked the idea of being able to show people how chocolate is made like they do overseas in European and Australian cheese factories - tourists love it,” she said as she swished her spatula through a fresh batch of rich cocoa mix spread out on a wide marble bench.
Siti has been at the Seremban museum complex since 2013 and the business continues to grow. Her ChocsValley brand of premium quality chocolates has become a very popular purchase as family treats and thank you gifts. Even royalty like her chocolates with one of the Sultan’s family members ordering a one-off designed set for a wedding.
Siti also supplies to some corporate customers especially in KL as well as walk in customers at the museum.
She also sells to entrepreneurs who want to sell chocolates but not make them (OEM customers). So she will design a set of chocolates specialised for their target market, which they label and sell.
“I’ve been here for four years now and still work very hard. I’ve appointed an agent in KL to distribute ChocsValley products to selected florists which is working well too, as flowers and chocolates go perfectly together as a gift.”
Presently Siti is experimenting with new flavours like freeze dried pineapple, green tea, tiramisu and other ingredients as well and all these are made from 100% cocoa butter chocolate.
“At the moment I am also thinking about making some chocolate bars and putting them into petrol stations around Malaysia,” she says.
“My dream is to have a shop stocked with Chocsvalley products, so when people walk in to my shop they go whoa, CHOCOLATES! And they don’t know which one to choose, perhaps it would have to be in Kl cause the buying power is much higher there,” she ponders.
Big dreams, big goals and a big chance of them coming true for Siti as she is a tour de force in getting things done.
While showing a staff member a new technique she says, "I want people to recognise and know the brand, Chocsvalley, I want to train the staff, encourage and motivate them because I want this company to grow, with or without me."
You can watch Siti make her chocolate or buy some chocolates or some yummy chocolate spread at her shop at the Lembaga Muzium Negeri Sembilan Complex, next door to Seremban Gateway, and is open Monday to Sunday: 9:00AM-5:00PM. GPS: 2.717953, 101.920365
If you want to join one of her chocolate making courses or order some amazing chocolates you can contact Siti on her handphone at 017 267 3215
You can get more information on her website at www.chocsvalley.com.my or on Instagram at chocsvalley_official where you can see more of her artisan chocolates and products.