Euniece was a buyer for Ben & # 39; s Independent Grocer while Jinli was a content creator for Astro.
The two met by chance through Jinli's husband in March 2019 and found that they shared a common passion and frustration:
- Your love for chocolates;
- The lack of high quality hot chocolates in Malaysia's local cafes.
Two months later, they decided to quit their corporate jobs and set up Cocova to bring better, healthier chocolate products to Malaysians.
"Our diverse backgrounds, skills and networks have enabled us to complement each other and bring Cocova to life," said Jinli.
They started research and development for the products in June 2019 and developed their first product, Chocolate Buttons.
Your chocolate buttons will be melted and turned into cold drinks / Photo credit: Cocova
"The original product was in the form of cocoa powder as we wanted to create a good hot chocolate drink for consumers."
"However, we weren't happy with the texture of the drinks as they were too powdery. So we changed them to chocolate buttons instead, and the feedback has been great!" She said.
Manipulation with the idea
Before diving into this company, Jinli admitted that they had no idea that there were already other local companies in Malaysia doing what they started.
"When we started, we didn't realize that there are already some single-origin bar beans in Malaysia," she said.
Some of the best known and most established are Seniman Cocoa, Chocolate Concierge, and Benn's Ethicoa.
Unlike their competitors, their brand does not target the craft market.
Instead, they position themselves as a younger, fun, and lively brand that appeals to millennials.
Smooth and Creamy Dark Chocolate Drink / Image Credit: Cocova
"We started the business with a modest amount from our own savings because we didn't want to borrow money from our families or get investors on board so early," said Jinli.
With limited resources, the two had to make adjustments and start small.
They worked in their own kitchens, used their living rooms as storage space, didn't hire a team, and used social media to market and sell the products.
Keeping costs down has worked in their favor because when the pandemic hit they were able to survive with no overhead.
Start on time for Christmas
"From the start, we knew we wanted to be out by November 2019 as chocolates are great Christmas gifts," said Jinli.
"We also knew that pretty gift sets would attract buyers, so we put a lot of emphasis on our packaging."
Within the first month of Cocova's launch in December 2019, they sold around 400 Christmas gift sets and had sales of RM 22,000 that month.
Despite a delay in research and development and a rush to produce their products and packaging, they were able to attend a bazaar in Publika, Kuala Lumpur.
The duo are selling their Christmas gift sets at Publika's bazaar / Image Credit: Cocova
The reactions from customers were overwhelming as their stocks were swept within the first 4 days.
“We hired friends and family to help us out, and we spent our days in the bazaar and nights packing and preparing drink samples for the next day. It was a very busy month, but this was a market validation at its best, ”said Jinli.
The first-hand feedback from chatting with customers also gave them confidence as to which products to put in their online shop.
The bazaar also led her to her first major contract, which came just two months after the company was founded.
A member of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry stumbled upon his booth and wanted to include Cocova products as a souvenir of the delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2020.
Cocova's Gift Sets for APEC 2020 / Photo credit: Cocova
"We made a suggestion, and to our surprise and delight, they ordered 500 gift sets from us!"
"We spent several days packing them over the Chinese New Year, but it was a great honor for us to represent Malaysia at this event," said Jinli.
Cocova was supposed to take part in big events like the Riuh Raya and the Craft Coffee Fair this year, but unfortunately they were canceled due to the MCO.
Without the events, Cocova sales were affected, but orders were coming in through their social media platforms in April.
The steady sales allowed them to stay operational and after the strict MCO was lifted they could turn to cafes to work with.
Maximize your revenue stream
"We're always looking to create new revenue streams for the company, whether it's providing services like sales or expanding into new product categories," said Jinli.
One possibility is to open a café.
She told Vulcan Post that the cafes and restaurants are increasing sales. By partnering with gift companies like Bloomthis, they can maximize their awareness by leveraging the flower company's customer base.
They recently invested savings in opening their first store on Kedai KL, Mahsa Avenue.
It's a small retail space where customers can try and purchase Cocova products (in bulk or otherwise).
The duo are also experimenting to create new products for customers and will be launching a few more products and a vegan version of their signature cold-soaked chocolate drinks.
- You can find out more about Cocova here.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups here.
Selected image source: Jinli and Euniece, co-founders of Cocova