This week I have suffered from FOMO. I actually REALLY suffered from it because I actually did miss out. There were shares in a chocolate company up for grabs and because I had not caught up with the local news and I clearly don’t mix in chocolate making circles I never heard a word about it! Which is a shame because just for a bit of fun I would have bought some too.
I’ve got history with chocolate, we go way back, it is one of my “areas of interest”.
My very first proper job was working as a forklift operator at Cadbury’s chocolate factory in Dunedin for over a year in the mid 90’s (last century!!!) I worked in their warehouse which at the time had just been built and was considered a show piece for how to build a really state of the art warehouse. It was big, square and it had racks that held chocolate that almost hit the really tall ceiling. Once or twice a day tour groups would walk out on the purpose build platform to gaze in wonder over all the pallets of chocolate and the minions below, like me, scurrying around like little ants for $8.50 per hour on their fork trucks, feeling like zoo exhibits. The smell of the chocolate factory has stayed with me as has the fact that my boss wore a handlebar mustache and smoked in his office and a couple of my colleagues took sexism to a whole new level when they said things like “You are working in a man’s workplace, what did you expect would happen”. For all the ladies reading this, THEY found out exactly what would happen I can tell you, and it was not what they were expecting!
One of the highlights of my forklift driving career was not driving, but instead standing in a goods lift with an entire pallet of Crunchie Nuggets and nibbling my way through as many as I could between the first and second floor. Every single day for the first three months I ate chocolate. When a new type of chocolate came into the warehouse there was often a terrible mishap with the forks on our fork truck and shock horror one of my crew would damage one of the boxes we were moving around! Ruined stock! Due to extensive quality control and exceptionally high standards there was NO WAY we could send this out to a customer. So, into the smoko room it went and that was how I generally got to try every new chocolate going! Delicious.
Three months and one day into the job I reached my chocolate eating zenith. I had reached the point of too much of a good thing and it was time to stop! Apart from crashing into new products so I could taste them from then on I eased up on my chocolate eating. If you want to test your chocolate eating capacity I suggest you go and work in a chocolate factory, but you won’t be able to test your limits at Cadbury’s Dunedin anymore.
Cadbury’s went down hill after I left, I don’t take the blame at all, my driving skills were awesome, but in such a big company I was probably not missed when I walked out the door. They stopped making one product, then another and then of course they were acquired by Modelez, an American multinational beverage, food and confectionary company. They bought Cadbury’s because it added yet another company to their ever growing list, the fact it was located at the bottom of the world affected their mega supply chain “not one bit” they said. That was right up until the point that being located at the bottom of the world with long distances to its markets became a problem after all, oh and there were increased costs to production too apparently. Did someone in their acquisition team finally get a map out and work out where NZ is actually located I wonder?
Anywho, I didn’t find them the best employer and they had lost me as a customer long before they switched to using Palm Oil, which sealed the deal in my mind. And I’ve done the Cadbury factory tour twice, it’s just a lonely walk around an empty factory with the tour guide saying “we USED to make easter eggs here but now they do an excellent job with them in Australia”. You end up at the factory shop, surrounded by shelves of beautifully displayed chocolate only to realise that everything you see is cheaper across the road at Countdown.
I still like chocolate but these days I’m fussy about what I eat. Give me an artisan chocolate or a Whittaker’s anyday. I’m all about quality over quantity and actually don’t mind paying more for it, which the Whittaker’s sales and marketing team had worked out some time back. So, although I’m gutted for all the workers of Cadbury’s in Dunedin who will be losing their livelihood when the door closes on a piece of Dunedin history I’m delighted that there are companies out there who have worked out how to make a dollar even when they are supplying a product that costs more...
What I had long ago worked out is that eating chocolate is a whole lot more than price and convenience. My history with Cadbury’s is a whole lot more complex:
- They gave me my first proper full time job: TICK
- They introduced me to sexism in the workplace: CROSS
- They introduced me to minimum wage and made me realise I wanted to aim higher: TICK
- I realised Easter Bunny was not real: CROSS
And now to the reason why I’m rambling on about my experiences with Cadbury’s chocolate in Dunedin.
The endorsement that the people of Dunedin and New Zealand gave another Dunedin chocolate maker Otago Chocolate Company, OCHO this week shows that our interest in a company goes far deeper than simply mixing cacao and milk together. This is a small premium chocolate maker intent on making a beautiful product in an ethical way and supporting the Dunedin economy while they do it. They are fiercely proud to be in Dunedin.
They were looking to expand their business and they needed some money to make it happen. So, they reached out to all of their customers and a few others besides with a PledgeMe crowdfunding campaign where they asked them if they would invest in their business. In return the chocolate muncher/investor would receive a stake in the company and 20% OFF chocolate for life.
It was said to be one of the fastest moving PledgeMe campaigns so far as over the course of 32 hours, 3,570 people pledged $2,000,000 and were tripping over themselves to get their hands on some of the chocolate action. It was akin to manning 4 computers trying to buy Ed Sheeran tickets at Dunedin Stadium!
3,570 jumped on the site and swiped their credit cards to grab a bit of chocolate.
That is because this small boutique chocolate maker has managed to catch the vibe of a city that is a little bit gutted that a multinational corporation has killed off a business that has been profitably working away just fine thanks in the heart of their city for as long as anyone can remember. And OCHO are saying, we are not going to let that happen again, here is what we are about instead:
- Creating a publicly owned company or more importantly a community owned company
- Employing local people
- No one investor could own more than 11%, so no one investor can dominate
- $100 per share and every shareholder has voting rights
- Creating an ethical business which will remain in Dunedin
- Each investor has 20% discount off their chocolate for life
- Expanding their current small scale business
All I can say is “well done to all of those who got involved”, a huge proportion of which, I’m guessing, will have no idea about investing and have never invested before. When I talk to some people about being an investor with a share portfolio I may as well be speaking Dutch BUT over the last week many will have become investors for the first time. So THIS is how you get people involved in investing, find something they are interested in and many of us are VERY interested in chocolate!
And many are probably now realising that it is not that difficult and it’s actually QUITE EXCITING to become an investor! They have worked out the basics of investing:
- Have some money to invest
- Understand your product
- Invest in what you know; a lot of people know what good chocolate tastes like
- Take an active interest.
When it comes to chocolate most can do all of that.
And being involved now means they are going to be exposed to how a company actually runs, that behind a premium bar of chocolate are a range of business decisions, helped by a board of directors, and beginning to realise the fact that because they own a tiny piece of a bar of chocolate they have a small say in how that chocolate is manufactured and tastes. And given time they will hopefully receive a dividend, a cash reward for investing in their business. Here is a link to what they are proposing to do with their investors money: www.pledgeme.co.nz
Can you imagine the first shareholder meeting? They are going to have to book out the Dunedin town hall and having attended a few shareholder meetings I bet the supper at this one would revolve around chocolate. They will have to up production in the week prior to cater for it!
A member of my family got involved and had a bit of a Willy Wonka moment as they scratched around to get $100 together to buy their winning ticket/share. And they secured one! Did they invest wisely was their question to me? I would give it a definite thumbs up because they now own a piece of a growing venture, based right in their city, producing a quality product that they understand and most importantly enjoy eating. Good on them and I hope they have some on hand next time I come to visit! And good on OCHO because they have actively engaged with all of the investors in their company, all of whom have a huge desire for the venture to be successful. Although sadly I didn’t get to invest, I’ll be taking a keen interest in how they proceed.
And finally, when you read all the media around this exciting week in the history of chocolate making in Dunedin, none of it mentions whether the chocolate actually tastes any good? So, if you have read this blog post right to the bottom, as a reward for your diligence, the first two people to email me at email@example.com will be receiving from me a bar of OCHO chocolate! Be in quick because I’m positive it will taste amazing!
WELL DONE to Veronica and Matthew for being quick off the mark and winning the chocolate.