Jazeera Suwani, the pioneer and Managing Director of Milk free chocolate brand “Say it with Chocolate” started small but is slowly establishing her chocolate empire. The passionate Jazeera says the evolving chocolate brand that caters for lactose intolerants, vegan is keen to make artisan chocolates for those with dietary challenges. Jeniffer Nyawira writes and tells of Jazeera’s journey and what informed her decision to capitalize on that market niche.
How did it all begin?
As a lactose intolerant individual, I started eating dairy products recently with the help of a tablet that I obtained overseas. Since I was a kid, I suffered immensely with tummy aches and bloating every time I ate something with milk. However, I still could not stop eating chocolate and ice cream and therefore kept getting sick all the time.
After developing interest and had knowledge of how to make chocolate, I decided to give it a shot.
In the beginning, I reached out to a very selective market as people were a bit hesitant and unsure of how it could react. Today, I have a lively and radiant group of people who only eat my chocolate brand.
When I started, I was doing three types of chocolate; White, milk and dark. I have however streamlined it to mostly dark with a few white but I feel with time, the white will be phased out.
Each batch is made with utmost care, love and perfection. I do not do a mass production and know exactly what goes into each and every batch. The ingredients are of the finest quality and sourced from free hold which is ethically sourced cocoa. Mine is a product that is uniquely made to cater for the neglected lactose intolerant market.
I make fresh batches each week and it is a totally organic product made of the highest quality cocoa, cocoa butter and unrefined sugar with natural essences.
My father is a business man while my mother is an accountant. As a professional Physiotherapist, I practiced for nine years after which I decided to venture into something new and different. Having attended a chocolate preparation course earlier on, I was persuaded it would be an interesting venture. This coupled with the obvious niche for good chocolate and especially dairy free ones saw me take the risk.
When I started, I had no idea about the market; neither did I know if it could work. I just followed my instinct. Interestingly, I had a few people who believed in my product at that time. The first chocolate batches with 5 pieces each and weighed 10g was sold at Ksh 200 at the farmers’ markets. It is from this market that I got my first break through – a corporate order.
However, I hit a drawback because they wanted boxes and I had no money to purchase them. Therefore, I had to get a loan from my dad as a down payment to the owner of the box manufacturing company, Mr Harjinder Singh Panesar, who was kind enough to give me a realistic pay plan.
Progress & Branding
From the little boxes of chocolate, I advanced into chocolate bars. Starting with only 4 types in January 2016, today I pride myself of up to 52 flavors.
In terms of packaging, I initially had no idea where to source for wrapping papers. I bought them from the supermarket most times but then progressed to different types of wrapping which is still developing with new inventions.
Of Dreams and Escalating to Greater Heights, she says
My childhood dream was to become a flying doctor but with time that changed. Basically, I could not see myself dissecting cadavers and imagine becoming a doctor and doing the same to people. Instead, I completed my medical course and graduated as a Physiotherapist and as you can imagine, there was no plan to pursue business therein but here I am.
I took baby steps, but never stopped. There were times it was difficult and almost seemed impossible, but I had people around me who believed in me. I am now Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) certified and will hopefully be more readily available in the market at various outlets.
Jazeera concludes and says “I have loads of plans for ‘Say it with Chocolate’, but for now it is to take the market by storm.
I believe that as a woman, if you have the drive you can do it. You will stumble along the way, and sometimes you will cry and want to give up which is our natural reaction. You will reach a point where you will see no light at the end of the tunnel if you look hard enough, you will see some light, even if it’s the size of a pinhole.
Keep going and by the time you reach the pinhole you will have reached the sun.