Can you give us an approximate launch date for My Chocolate Box?
We are yet to launch and are in the prelaunch stage at the moment. Not because we aren't ready, but because it is part of our marketing strategy to build that initial momentum or the steam before we launch. We want people to be curious and anticipate what’s to come. It is also about the validation of our core offering, so if the market seems interested and we can capture people’s imagination...then it's an obvious green signal to move ahead.
Our approximate launch date is in the middle of May, where we will start taking subscriptions from the waiting list and those people will be our foundation customers. Our first billing starts on the first of June, and shipments will be sentence out by the 15th of June.
What prompted the My Chocolate Box project?
I love chocolates and have always been passionate about them, however, this project was a result of something more than that. Entrepreneurial wisdom teaches you to start something very simple with one product, and one pricing, and to do it with such a very high degree of perfection that the market base could derive the highest degree of utility from consumption of that product.
The product then becomes something more than just a physical thing, it becomes an ‘idea’ and starts relating to customer’s ‘emotions’. The whole thing should excite people and become an experience, and in our case, it starts from the moment you land on our website.
So when I went soul searching for that one product that I would love to begin with, I found chocolates. It's something that not only excites me, but is a product that gives many of us so much joy and happiness, so why not create something new out of it and offer that to the world?
Is this your first startup?
This is certainly not our first startup in New Zealand. We have had couple of other ventures (some of which have failed), which included a digital marketing agency, a financial benchmarking service, a property development company, and an ethnic tour agency. We (myself and my partner) both come from a businessoriented families so we have seen it all and understand the dynamics and the risks. Moreover, we both hold degrees in business, so we are foundationally strong as well. We value independence and we're more than willing to take the risk.
Let’s talk about the product. Can you name the participating chocolatiers for us?
From day one, we understood that we are in the service industry and so the customer experience supersedes the utility or the value proposition of just a product. From the minute you subscribe to the minute you are unboxing our monthly treats, we will try to perfect each moment. However, the product is the core around which the experience is wrapped, so we make damn sure that it is not only good—it is the best.
We have a confidential arrangement with our suppliers and all we can say at this stage is that we only choose the best. So there are some usual names and some new names.
How did you select them? I hope there was a lot of tastetesting involved!
The core criteria is that we look for passionate companies—chocolatiers who are there not just to make money. We also look for attributes such as sustainability and care for social causes, because it matters to us that the chocolatier we are working with has the same values and principles that we stand by. Profit making is secondary to us—it’s all about growing the business to begin with and spreading happiness the humane way.
So, tastetesting...yes indeed! There was a lot of tastetesting involved and it was certainly a very good excuse for a road trip around New Zealand, with our 16monthold toddler, tasting the creations of some amazing chocolatiers. However, we also extensively researched the customer’s opinions, conducted telephone interviews, and talked to their suppliers. All I can say is that my corporate experience as an auditor certainly helped me to see through the usual corporate/business slang and look for the ‘substance’ in our suppliers.
Your ‘taste profile’ feature sounds interesting—can you tell us about how that works?
So, our taste profile feature is an extension of our belief that it's all about the customer experience. And to augment that experience, we as a company need to individually understand each and every customer's taste. So we have developed a taste scale and a sort of interactive survey, which goes out automatically to firsttime subscribers.
The kaleidoscope of chocolate’s flavorspectrum subdivides into seven basic profiles. A given chocolate often possesses multiple flavors; one of them, however, usually predominates to determine its profile.
The customers have to click on a couple of pictures shown on their screen and we have an algorithm that will determine their taste based on their choices. It may sound and look simple at the front end, but it is actually a pretty clever system which also collect data from the feedback card. Currently, we have a working MVP and as we grow, we will be investing more in further development of this system.
We provide an electronic feedback card with every shipment, so we can cater to the changing/evolving taste of a customer, and we also vary our shipments based on seasonal changes and other external environmental factors as well.
Tell us about the market you’re targeting. What kind of consumer do you picture signing up for this?
Even though our service is open to all, our target market consists of Millennials and mostly ladies. And I can say from the names on the waiting list is that they will be our founding customers. The reason for this is that Millennials tend to be techsavvy early adopters who have strong brandfollowing and a sense of quality. However, at the same time, they are the hardest to satisfy, so we will have to make sure that we do everything with perfection.
That being said, we as humans are inherently wired to gravitate towards new ideas and experiences. And our strong market reception, one month into prelaunch, can attest to that.
Has there been much interest so far?
Our prelaunch website went live on the 24th of March in the evening. We have had around 15,000 page views since then, around 1,000 likes on Facebook, and around 1,300 waiting list applications. Not to mention that we have so many great messages from early adopters in anticipation. The fact that people are willing to wait for our launch sort of validates our value proposition. So, in a nutshell, yes it has been a very good start shall we say.
How do you anticipate this project growing? I noticed a hint you might ship overseas one day.
In the words of Gandhi: “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.”
Our job is not to anticipate but to do absolutely the best we can, although it is human nature to do so. However, we are focusing on building a great company and working exceptionally hard for that. So far, the growth has been exponentially better than what we would have anticipated.
Once we have proved the business model here, if that seems to be working we are going big! We are going to start in Australia, USA, Canada, China, and India. China and India because both these countries have a very healthy and affluent middle class consisting largely of Millennials who are willing to spend money on great concepts and experiences, so we can scale up pretty quickly. Moreover, it will also give us a chance to serve New Zealand and help our local Kiwi suppliers to grow, because we see New Zealand’s future in niche highvalue products, not in competing on lowprice, highvolume stuff.
Do you believe there’s room for more subscription boxes in the New Zealand market?
The subscription commerce market has seen rapid growth over the last few years. The perceived success of a few highprofile businesses using the subscription commerce model has spurred many people to launch their own services in creative new niches and in different countries around the world, so New Zealand is not an exception to this.
There are lots of new companies building successful businesses selling all manner of products by subscription. There is no single “subscription commerce market” as such. Rather, there are many niches being targeted or created by these different services. So there is definitely room for savvy individuals to start something of their own, especially now when the entry barriers are not that high and the industry isn’t mature.
Can you think of another product you’d like to see offered under the subscription box model?
I would personally like to see a subscription box model applied to things of daily necessities, things that we don't want to think about buying. We could just subscribe and forget. It would help us make our lives simpler, so we can concentrate on the finer and more important things in life rather than bother about buying milk and bread. It will have a lower utility than the niche offerings, however it is definitely a stable business model with an exceptionally high customer lifecycle value. We may even move into that space in the future as the industry matures, however, it is a bit early to assume anything.