The Journey of BitterSweet: Homemade Premium Chocolate Makers Looking to Create Memories and Add Sweetness to Everyday Life

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The Journey of BitterSweet: Homemade Premium Chocolate Makers Looking to Create Memories and Add Sweetness to Everyday Life

Nepal imports Billions of rupees worth of chocolates every year— with the net demand rising by almost 20 per cent per year. This indication of a lucrative market for chocolates led to the creation of BitterSweet- a manufacturer of homemade luxury chocolates in Nepal. According to the founder Smriti Tuladhar, BitterSweet creates memories with their homemade chocolates. “We make our chocolates with the utmost passion and care. They are crafted according to the customer’s preference with personalized messages. That is how we create memories”, shares the 23 year old.

 

The Initiation

Although the concept for homemade chocolates was first developed for KUSOM’s (Kathmandu University School of Management) Idea Studio, the first business incubator in Nepal, chocolate making was not entirely new to Tuladhar. “Like every child, I was very fond of chocolates. However; I wanted to go beyond eating and wondered what it would be like to actually make them.” So, after some research on ingredients, packaging, and equipment, Tuladhar came up with a minimal viable product made of hard chocolates which she sold from her college canteen during fairs and events. The overwhelming response and positive feedback garnered by her chocolates’ new taste and quality encouraged her to pursue chocolate making as an actual business.

 

The BitterSweet Journey

After completing incubation at Idea Studio, Tuladhar interned and worked in different hotels and restaurants to gain insights on real life business practices. After her internship, she decided to work on her minimal viable product again. The hard chocolates were replaced with truffles containing flavoured fillings. Finally, after a prolonged journey, the chocolates were branded with the label, BitterSweet. The name BitterSweet, according to Tuladhar, recites the blend of the bitter and sweet moments of life. She believes life is made more beautiful when we cherish both highs and lows equally.

The chocolates are handmade and hand-packaged (using minimal, basic equipment). Many people assume that everything needed to make a chocolate is imported in Nepal, but with BitterSweet, only the cocoa is imported (from Malaysia). The fillings, for instance, are made with local, seasonal fruits and ingredients.

Starting with coffee, BitterSweet now offers 25 different flavours. However, coffee is still their best seller, followed by rum. Today, BitterSweet employs a total of 13 people in production, marketing, and public relations. Tuladhar started with her maid who was unable to earn enough to send her child to school, even though she worked part time at Tuladhar’s house among many other houses. This way, most chocolate makers at BitterSweet are women who are now being able to lead a better life.

But, even though they have employees to make chocolates, Tuladhar and her family work on fillings themselves, thus keeping their Unique Selling Point of exclusive taste a secret.

 

Overcoming Challenges as a Startup

Bittersweet started their operation during the sanction India imposed on Nepal back in 2015. In addition to the regular problems of a startup, BitterSweet also had to maneuver through supply related issues. Tuladhar and the team were faced with a dilemma of continuing operations against the adversities posed by the blockade, with the ten hour load-shedding problem being only secondary. But, the continued love from their customers and their need to build a foundation of trust in their initial days, made them continue their production and sales despite the obstacles.

Another problem BitterSweet faced as a startup was the issue of credit-management. As a startup you are faced with the dilemma of either extending credit or not selling at all. The Nepali market condition is traditionally demanding on this regard. Starting out, BitterSweet had to extend their credit to some businesses. But the credit period sometimes was so prolonged that they had to end up extending it by months which disrupted the cash flow. “When you’re a startup they try to exploit you. But you should try to find ways to tackle them,” says Tuladhar, who now sells on a contract basis applying incremental charges, if payments are not made on time.   

 

Going further

BitterSweet started as a premium chocolate brand targeting a market niche consisting of people who had a taste for premium chocolates. The company reached out to corporate houses with customized chocolates. The marketing methodology employed by the company was simple yet effective- reaching out to prospective client, pitching their product, sourcing preferences and preparing chocolates accordingly.

“The tastes and preferences must be carefully examined before getting products out. One business deal can make you rich overnight,” says Tuladhar. From the steady growth of BitterSweet, one cannot but believe that her marketing efforts are working quite well.

 

Looking Into the Future

For someone so young, Tuladhar is already preparing for her second venture involving hotels and restaurants. Tuladhar lives in Basantapur so she plans to use the prime location with generous footfall to her advantage. Her experience in the hospitality industry might come handy in making the business successful.

While she keeps herself busy with her second venture, Tuladhar is looking to hand over BitterSweet’s operations and management to her sister, Sneha Tuladhar. Both the sisters are setting sights at an organic growth for the company. “We are at a good phase right now, where we’re growing and learning. Every day is the best day at work. I feel so privileged, not for the money I’ve earned or the chocolates I’ve made, but for the people I’ve earned, the people I can look up to.”

Comments

  • Guest
    Aashma khanal Thursday, 27 July 2017

    Congratulations ayu... love it
    I am sure we will be seeing and hearing more about your achievements in the future. Keep up the good work.

  • Guest
    Baba Thursday, 27 July 2017

    Well done, keep it up

  • Guest
    Pratikshya Kuinkel Thursday, 27 July 2017

    Loved your article! Loved the flow. Also what an inspiring story! Keep up the good work!

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Guest Saturday, 18 November 2017