Everyone has a special relationship with chocolate, but Rizaini Mokhtar has managed to turn hers into a business. She took her love affair with this cocoa-based delicacy to the next level when she started her entrepreneurial journey in 2014.

She took pastry and chocolate making classes after quitting her previous job. “I was in the media and finance industry. So many things happened at that time and I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I had to stop working and became a stay-at-home mom. Being a working person, I couldn’t do nothing. After taking two courses, I wanted to do something more with my knowledge of chocolate,” says Rizaini.

She spent her time experimenting with the Belgian variety. Her friends and family benefited from her interest, as she often shared her homemade creations with them. “Somehow I felt there was a special connection between me and chocolate. That’s why I kept making it.

When Rizaini was confident enough to expand her clientele, she contacted businesses and began arranging personalized gifts for them. For a long time, she took care of it alone. “I made the chocolate, organized the boxes and advertised them.”

In 2020, she was ready to expand the business beyond personalized gifts. She partnered with Suri Daman, who joined the team with skills in retail and branding. They met through a business platform group. “I spoke to Suri about my desire to expand Chocolate Story and she helped me envision how the business should be run,” she says.

Suri offered to rename Chocolate Story to Cherita Chocolate, a local twist on the original name that the partners felt more connected to. A new concept was developed to tap into the retail market in addition to highlighting topics such as women’s empowerment and mental health.

Like a breath of fresh air, new commercial components have been introduced to improve operation. Imported chocolate was replaced with local raw materials from Selangor, Melaka and Pahang. They also updated the entire look and feel of the brand by marrying authenticity and aesthetics through its flavors and packaging design. For example, the Chinese New Year graphics featured women of different races wearing traditional clothing, while the background was adorned with lanterns and cherry blossoms.

“We’ve had people ask if we’re a local or international brand because our brand look seems so fresh and innovative. They liked our choice of colors for the illustrations and the specialized packaging for different festivities in Malaysia,” says Rizaini, whose daughter Nadia is responsible for their attractive and well-received designs.

As the brand grew, it worked with local manufacturers and farmers to increase the efficiency of the time-consuming chocolate-making process. Rizaini witnessed this business from the ground up when she visited a cocoa farm. “Different soils produce different chocolate notes like nutty, creamy or bitter. After harvesting and fermentation, the dry beans are sorted to eliminate those that are imperfect. Learning this made me realize why high-quality chocolate is expensive,” says Rizaini.

Today, Cherita Chocolate has a stock of confectionery made from locally sourced cocoa beans in the form of bars, cocoa nibs, granola, spreads, cookies and a chocolate drink. chocolate.

In addition to supporting local farmers, the brand wants to raise awareness of a healthier choice, namely dark chocolate. As such, it offers a wide range of flavors, such as gula merah, coconut crumbles, cornflakes and pumpkin seeds, for the uninitiated.

Although milk-based options are also available, partners want more people to know about the health benefits of having it black. “Before Cherita Chocolate, I didn’t know much about chocolate either,” Suri admits. “It’s a learning opportunity for us and our customers. For example, when you incorporate cocoa nibs into your breakfast daily, the health impact is significant as it increases levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain, which affects your mood throughout the day. .

As mental health is an issue close to Rizaini’s heart, Cherita Chocolate collaborated last year with the Mental Illness Awareness & Support Association for products themed on Hope, Faith and Love of the brand. A portion of his sales went to the organization.

The local company does not yet have a physical store, but it does have a stall at the Publika Shopping Gallery in Kuala Lumpur almost every month. This Ramadan, he is participating in Finally! Beraya event at the mall and launched a new look for its best-selling collection, Sooka-Series, focusing on the theme of self-love.

With each new collection, the duo makes it a point to offer themes that empower women. A memo filled with encouraging words is included in each box. “The central message we want to convey is that women are capable of anything despite the challenges they face. One of the things they can do to take care of themselves is to choose the right foods,” says Suri.

Addressing a female audience from different walks of life, everything about the brand is imbued with a touch of femininity. “Unlike the traditional way of marketing chocolate, we want to be different because we are talking directly to women. We model the packaging, flavors and graphics based on what they like,” says Suri. Passionate about fashion, the partners incorporate this passion into Cherita Chocolate by inventing new designs with each new collection and personalized gifts.

“When we can open a franchise one day, we hope to employ women and make it a fully female-owned business – from manufacturing and production to marketing and distribution,” says Rizaini.

This article was first published on April 18, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.