Start-Up Stories with Cyan Ta’eed
Occupation: founder and CEO
Company: Hey Tiger
Why start Hey Tiger?
The one question I have been asked the most in the past year has been “why would someone from a tech background start a chocolate company?” Actually, that’s a lie. The most common question is “do you have any chocolate for me?”, but the other one is a close second. And my answer is always… long. But I’m so passionate about what we’re doing with Hey Tiger that I tend to tell the whole story with a whole lot of detail. So because people keep asking, here is the story of Hey Tiger, and the answer to why I would trade a career in technology for a life making chocolate.
Back in October 2016, I got an eye injury which resulted in me spending a month unable to do much but lie in a dark room. No computer, no phone, no office, no chasing my kids, no books - just me and my thoughts. I came out of the other side of it just fine with a fervent appreciation of eye health, but more importantly with the understanding that I really wanted to do something new. I wanted it to be really different, and to have real social impact. There’s nothing like a time of intense boredom to really make you think about your life.
Why a social enterprise?
I had been working in and on Envato since I was 25, and while a growing company always comes with new challenges, I missed that special kind of challenge that comes with a start-up. Creating something that wasn’t in the world before is one of life’s great joys, and I wanted to feel that again.
I had been fascinated by the idea of launching a social enterprise for a while, so I set about finding an idea that was exciting enough for me to start something new. At the same time, I had been supporting The Hunger Project’s work in Burkina Faso in West Africa. In the course of educating myself about the challenges for women and children in that region, I learned that children are routinely taken from their families and put in forced labour in cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and Ghana. It occurred to me that something that I LOVED and brought me and every woman I knew so much pleasure was, in fact, a broken and destructive industry for many cocoa farmers, families and children.
This was particularly alarming to me because I’d been obsessed with chocolate for a long time. Who isn’t, you might ask, but I was obsessed to the point of making it sometimes, trying my hand at pairing it with other flavours, and going out of my way to try anything new. When I had travelled I’d seen chocolate brands that did such glorious things with chocolate; things that appealed to me more than anything that I was seeing in Australia.
I'm a firm believer!
I’m a firm believer that sometimes the universe leads you in a particular direction, and for about six months I kept coming back to chocolate. I kept telling myself it was impractical, but things kept happening which added and evolved this crazy vision of starting my very own social enterprise chocolate company.
So like any good tech person, I tested. I made chocolate bars in my own kitchen every day after work and took them into the office and got people to try them. I bought chocolate from my potential competitors and made happy but confused Envato colleagues try them and rate them. And I kept getting the same feedback… where did you get this chocolate?
So I decided to throw caution to the wind and dive in. I found two amazing chocolatiers and nabbed one of my favourite Envato people and convinced them all to work with me to develop a range of chocolate that we would be beyond excited to try. I asked them to use the best ingredients and create something that would blow people away.
So where to from here?
We set up Hey Tiger as a company owned by a charitable trust and I dived into learning how to create a positive impact in the communities where over 60% of the world’s cocoa is grown - West Africa. This was a long road but in the end, we decided to partner with The Hunger Project and fund their women-led community development programs in the cocoa farming belt of Ghana. They understand how to create holistic impact and are an amazing partner.
So where to from here? As I write this we are five days from pre-launch. In my humble opinion, Hey Tiger chocolate is the best chocolate in Australia. We have honestly given everything we have to make each bar an amazing experience, from the packaging to the chocolate itself. Every bite is made by hand and is the result of literally hundreds of iterations to create just the right flavour, texture and experience.
I’m so proud of Hey Tiger. It is a brand I made for the many women in my life who I adore. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and we can create a new type of luxury brand that exists to make the world a little bit better.
This article was first published by Hey Tiger at www.heytiger.com.au
You can follow Cyan and her amazing world of chocolate on Instagram @heytigerco and @cyan.taeed