Chocolate Conching Machine

What I Learned from Chocolate

I took a moment to focus on a quiet insight and in the process I discovered business lessons that shaped my professional life. Here’s what I learned from chocolate.

…besides the fact that eating too much chocolate would give you a toothache and needless to say quite a few cavities. Nevertheless, like many other kids my age that didn’t stop me from indulging this lucid high. I dreamed about one day owning a chocolate factory like the eccentric Willy Wonka from the children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Over time, I became more selective — meaning I only buy dark chocolate, and would constantly seek out a more enriched chocolate experience. I looked into the process of artisanal Bean to Bar chocolate: every part of the chocolate making process is done in-house. What was it about this kind of chocolate that made it feel like there’s a party in your mouth? Now pay attention because here is the interesting part.

During the production, cocoa nibs are put into a machine that continuously grinds them through a process called conching. A chocolate enthusiast observed this process and noticed that the machine you or any other homemade chocolaterie can use to do this at home is similar to an old machine that is used in India to make South Indian crepes — idlis. He sprang at the opportunity, started importing these machines, put a new sticker on them and sold them as chocolate conching machines.

I know what you’re thinking and maybe it had a little to do with serendipity. Instead I encourage you to consider it from a deeper perspective:

  1. There are gems everywhere, if you pay attention

The hard but not impossible task is to find, cut and polish them into opportunities. I have found this process becomes a lot more fun and painless when you look for them within your own passions and interests. As this one man did with the idli machine, you too can find your own gem.

2. Fill the gaps with the unexpected

To see an existing technology and the current landscape in combination with your own experiences and a creative mindset — with an entrepreneurial twist can transform an idea into a profitable new business model like the DIY chocolate conching machine or more eminent examples like Spotify, AirBnb and Uber.

3. Pivot, don’t jump to a new vision

In his book the Lean Startup @Eric Ries explains this change in strategy without a change in vision. In the excitement of the moment we often come up with ideas that sound good, but in reality they can turn out to be terrible. If you look back at what many of the companies that are successful today started of as, you’d be surprised.

Youtube started off as a dating site and pivoted to a video-sharing site. Burbn was a location search and discovery app that allowed you to also post pictures. They cut out everything within Burbn except the photo sharing features and Instagram was born (all of which was done in 8 weeks). Within hours of the launch, Instagram had more than 10,000 users and you know the rest. Over time, you may see the pivoting strategy lead you far afield from your original vision, but if you look carefully, you’ll be able to detect common threads that link each iteration.

“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just attach it to a new wagon.” Mark McCormack