My name is Beata and I work for Savage Brothers (http://www.savagebros.com/index.aspx) and I just wanted to reach out to the group and see what kind of experiences you've had with different brands of equipment, what were some of the factors that made you decide to go with the brand that you went with, and how happy you are now if you've already gone through the startup process. I know there are a few equipment threads but some of them seem to be specific to one particular brand or turn into threads of promotions for certain companies but that's definitely not what I'm trying to do. I just want to learn more about some of the issues that start-ups might run into that equipment companies aren't effectively addressing and hopefully simultaneaously help out some of those just starting out in the chocolate business!
If you have any questions more specific to Savage Brothers equipment please feel free to message me or send me an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I usually think that it has to do with the supply / demand curve. Then I was thinking, early phase startups are the larger numbers 10:1 vs the established large scale where everyone who has encountered failure, is gone. You'd think there would be more thriving early market products and less so for the established. If the reverse is true how in the hell are they getting funded for industrial scale projects, you can't lateral easy into the industry. I'd be curious to get sales data from places like Chocovision, ACMC, Hilliard, etc. Plotting a sales curve and lifetime value of a customer for those industries would be telling.
You are right though, love the velveteen rabbit analogy. I come from a tech background, but I've become much more of a machine engineer repairing, refitting, evolving (while personally sometimes devolving) as we push equipment to its limits.
Joe, you're awe inspiring. I would suggest working with a candy maker then asking to be willed the business. Hahah!
I thought it was the first year of retail that was tough. No.. that's easy. You're funded the first year. It's the second year that will drain your accounts, then it's the third year that breaks you. Unless of course you work your arse off building sustainable sales channels, and even that--nothing in life is certain or really very predictable. :D Glad I and many of you must love the journey!
These are some great responses,
For financing as a small company (about 40 people including sales, parts, engineers, assemblers, welders, electrical, etc.) it would be difficult for us to do anything in house unless we hired on an extension of our accounting sector and as Andy said it would probably turn out similar to leasing companies based on credit worthiness in order to financially protect ourselves.
As for a conch machine these has recently been brought up within the company since many chocolatiers are moving towards bean to bar production, as a company we need to learn more about the process itself and its intricacies to insure a quality design and product - and I'm not making any promises but it is being talked about. We're currently focused on an enrobing line but I think offering equipment to help the artisan chocolatier streamline their production with consistently efficient, reliable machines is extremely important and obviously something the company is based on in the first place.
I truly appreciate the feedback, keep it coming!
[Edited to remove equipment offers.]
Joe - offers to sell equipment belong in Classifieds.
I think a grinding/conching machine that would ' take a licking and keep on ticking ' would be an instant hit.
Hmm..I am just getting started in the learning process, experimenting with ganache flavors, the science of long shelf life, and making bon-bons, truffles, etc., and doing market research. The used equipment that I have come upon is usually still pretty expensive--because the machinery itself, new, was costly in the first place--so why not try an get as much as possible-I would do the same. Buying something that is small batch only in production doesn't make much sense, though cheaper--one would find themselves quickly looking at the fact it isn't going to do the job even after a short period of time--especially if one does well. Often larger re-sellers can lift a sellers burden of getting rid of stuff quicker before one could list it elsewhere (craigslist, ebay, here, etc) and then the price is higher for anyone who is looking for start-up to mid-level making--because the re-seller wants their $$$$.
There is little good financing for beginners that are without private savings or access to substantial assets that could be leveraged for bank financing. I have tried to negotiate a better price on used equipment through a large company=LOL. One is left to save and save in an economy that is stagnant, wages are frozen and the cost of everything (chocolate, beans, packaging, you name it) is all increasing. I am not sure what the answer is, other than to keep saving, think strategically and go forward and be optitimistic. Small business is where it is at. I am hoping that the country turns around--then it may be easier. Fingers crossed!
I'd like to second the comment from Erin for a reliable Conch machine. That would really be nice. My machine has had several operations to replace parts from belts to motor and the capacity is below 8lbs per load.
I have a Cocaotown melanger, the ultra. I have used gritty, campo paste; nibs, and finely ground liquor in the machine and still trying to figure out the best times for grinding/conching. From what I have seen and read about, it seems as if the proper method is to grind, then refine and then conch in three separate machines. Can you do quality chocolate with the refining and conching processes combined? I also see some do not let their chocolate go to solids and keep it liquid (in a holding tank) until they are ready to temper and mold.
I have to echo what a number of others have said here in regard to the lack of equipment for start-up chocolate makers. I've been researching this for months now, and while the situation is better than it was a few years ago, it's still pretty bad. The majority of what I see out there either barely rises above the level of home hobbyist, or immediately jumps to over six figures. I realize that up until very recently chocolate makers were as rare as hen's teeth, so most equipment manufacturers probably saw no point in creating equipment for a non-existent market. But it must be clear at this point that things are changing fast. Remember the specialty coffee market? In 1965 it didn't exist. By 1985 it was a multi-billion dollar industry. How about if we all start to connect those particular dots?
Some company (maybe yours?) is going to come up with a real solution for entry level chocolate makers, and they are going to rule to roost for years. For what it's worth, here's my suggestion: Create a QUALITY winnower/grinder/refiner/conch solution that sells for $10,000 - $15,000. There's little economy of scale at this point, so your margins on this will not be terrific at first. But over time that will change. More and more people are entering this market, and they are desperately looking for professional solutions. Right now most of what's being offered are either MacGyver'd popcorn poppers & vacuum cleaners pretending to be production equipment, repurposed R&D instruments pretending to be affordable, or reasonably priced equipment pretending to be reliable. It's time for a change.
I am researching the feasibility starting a fair-trade bean to bar business, and actually live a few streets down from the US offices of the 'pretending to be reliable' vendor.
Love your popcorn popper & vacuum cleaner description, LOL.
To Ms. Corson & Savage Bros,--- a reliable, functioning grinding/conching machine would be a hit. With US built reliability and service, even better. Sign me up.
I have a reliable cocoa beans source from Indonesia contact if you are interested in looking into.
let me know if you need more info.
I also agree. There isnt anything for the newcomer/start up in the middle of the pack. Either home size or factory size. Would be nice to see something on a smaller scale that is less expensive so the company can grow before investing in a large highly expensive machinery. Although they are so nice to work with :)
I am just starting out, still working out my business plan and all the steps to get started. I am finding that there are a lot of companies that are not willing to finance or lease to own. This would be something I would consider if it were an option.