31 Mar Family Secrets
Hope you’re all doing great.
I just went through all the old blog posts I had up on here- I didn’t read them (I didn’t want to), but put them away as drafts so that they are no longer accessible to the public. It’s springtime. Time to start fresh. A concept, which at this point, is quite frankly a little exhausting, but I still got it in me.
Posts from a kid who just… tried so hard. Drafts.
A quick skim brought up a lot of memories- some were good, some almost made me cry. Seeing dates is even tough because some years mean more than others and some I wish I could erase, or go back and do differently, or just go back and give myself a hug. And maybe I will look back on this year in a few years or in many years and think the exact same thing- and in realizing that, maybe I finally understand love for oneself. It’s like you are a different person, who cares about you, but you are still just you, only older. So why not apply that to today?
I don’t know- it’s hard.
It’s hard to see how much time has passed. I’ve been running Zimt for 7 years. I’ve had a lot of help, but at the end of the day, I always know it is just me. Just this one, if push really comes to shove- and I write from experience.
I don’t know if it has been rewarding or not- I’m happy that some of the money from what we sell goes to help those who are in a very tough spot. Namely, non human animals. They always get it the worst. They do.
Not going into that now, though, because this post is long enough as is. And there’s still some important stuff to convey.
Seven years is a really long time, when it’s your 20s. And that’s been pretty much it- one thing. And you’re still like, what is going on here? Many days.
This is what is going on here.
We used to make all of our products in house. The first place I worked out of was a church kitchen, St. Mary’s Church, in Kerrisdale. I think I got kicked out for swearing or something, but they never told me that. I feel really bad- I feel like I should have been more respectful of their space, because respect goes beyond just cleaning up proper. I don’t want to make excuses but… I was going through extra tumultuous brain and life times at that point.
Then we moved to the back of a vegan cupcake shop, but it is tough to work in someone else’s space, especially when it is tight. I think I am happier to be in tight spaces with others more than most people are. But that’s just me.
Then we moved to a vegan yogurt factory in North Van. That’s when I started to pull the 22 hour kitchen shifts, and would nap on the concrete floor by the chocolate melters. Had to get orders done. That was a tough time of life, but not because of that.
Then, we got a little too big for that space and the vegan yogurt company wanted 24/7 access, and we had to find something else. So I worked with a chocolate company that made a bunch of our stuff according to our recipes, and rented space in their factory from them. And it was, for the most part, really nice.
But the thing is- unless you own property or have enough money to seamlessly transition to whichever alternative of your choosing, if your landlord suddenly evicts you, times are tough.
So we got last minute evicted last year and I don’t even want to go into that because it was such an exhausting mess. Moving pallets and pallets and pallets of meltable chocolate in mid June is kind of a wreck, and the rest of the summer was not easy. I don’t want to go into it, but I was basically working out of 3 different facilities for about 6 months. This is tough to do when you are moving thousands of lbs of products and you just have a smart car and not a huge budget for hiring movers and couriers all the time.
Because we didn’t have a contract, because they refused to sign a contract, and because I was so desperate and actually didn’t have anywhere else to go I just went with them, and when they needed the space, they got the space. I had been looking for alternatives for years.
And when we were basically all out of macaroons, after working out of about 70 SF of shared space in a freezing kitchen to enrobe them in chocolate, and after they all bloomed because you can’t just let warm chocolate hit such freezing cold air so suddenly and not expect problems, basically then is when I found something else.
I found a food manufacturing space that was basically ready to go. Ok, am I going to do this? Invest in all this equipment? I didn’t take out a loan- it was what was saved up from our profits from sales, which was made easier to do with help. But also more difficult, and I need to work on my brain with that to get rid of some of the anxiety. It still just suddenly jumps up, depending upon who says what and it feels like an electric shock that paralyzes me for a few seconds. But at least I could invest in some equipment, so I can make chocolate, so I can sell chocolate, so I can send money to animals. And I had a space.
And that’s what I did. I hired a moving company- we had to make three stops in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia to collect Zimt’s things. The space was not cleared out when we arrived- which meant a lot of extra work. I am very thankful for my friend Jordan, who, like many single, working moms, as has been my observation, is extremely hard working and resourceful and just gets it done. Not batting an eyelash. How do they do it? I’m in awe. I’m lucky to have the friends I have.
Equipment slowly, slowly started coming in. Had to take it off the pallets- have you done anything like that before? Change the electrical. Open them up- how come this didn’t work? That didn’t work? We got it to work. Thanks to my landlord, mostly. Please don’t screw me over- still not out of the woods until I own. And you never know and I do have trust issues.
So much tweaking. I am lucky to have good co-workers (we all work. Zimt employs us all. Some of them more than others of us. TBH.), who look at equipment and processes and want to create efficiencies or just get the enrober to stop being so unreasonable and the chocolate to temper properly, otherwise it is streaky, dusty, does not look good, still tastes good, but people don’t want to see that. They don’t want to buy that. Looks unpleasant.
The equipment is in. We got it all to work. I still need to sort out a lot- scheduling more efficiently, because, time does not equal money. Time = Lives. Efficiencies make room for profits and so many animals need what that money can buy, it is baffling. There are a couple of ‘surprise’ pieces of equipment that are coming in- hopefully this week. Most of us wouldn’t last a day making macaroons as they are being made now- myself included. Keep that in mind- you will enjoy them even more!
So I set up my own factory. Our own factory- Zimt’s own factory. Me and Zimt.
It’s been almost 3 months since move in. I haven’t told my family about the factory. I couldn’t do that to them or to myself before I just struggled through it and got it to work at some basic level. You have to be kind of ‘risk tolerant’ not ‘risk averse’ to go into business. Especially for manufacturing. With industrial equipment, poor instruction manuals, and a decent potential for injury, should someone ignore reasonable safety precautions. With big capital expenses and an ever more saturated market. With a market that likes the taste but doesn’t understand the process, the goal, the heart, and can easily go on to the next taste-bud suitable alternative.
They worried about these things, but I already worry about them. And I couldn’t take on more worry, so I didn’t tell them. My worry is enough. Any more might kill me. And would definitely make me kill Zimt. Sadly.
We are really low on inventory right now, but we made a bunch of Coconut Crisp bars yesterday and wow- they are so good. So next week we will make Sweet Orange Nib’d, Peppermint, and Chocolate 80% (just the plain bars). We will make more chocolate in our big chocolate machine- here is what it looks like:
It’s up to me to communicate why we do what we do. We don’t make chocolate because I just love chocolate and had to have it completely take over my life and just had to get whatever flavour combination out to the public, who would surely appreciate it just as much as I did.
We make chocolate- it is very good chocolate. It is a high quality product that is slightly underpriced, but competition is fierce. We make high quality chocolate, sell it, and use that revenue to cover basic expenses, and to use the profits to grow the business. Because through the business, we can raise even a little awareness (I try to curb it, I really do- I know it makes most people uncomfortable and can have a counter productive effect, which I cannot risk, given the severity of the situation). And through the profits, we can give to the animals, who want so badly, to just live in peace.
PS- I am sorry that we don’t have fancy Easter Chocolates ever. I think it can happen next year. Every year has been kind of a train wreck but at least we know the machine can make bars that contain coconut flakes- we weren’t sure up until yesterday afternoon and Easter is tomorrow!