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.
For me, the cost of planning to do any kind of volume is prohibitively expensive when planning a start up. We are relegated to small, if any, kind of tempering machines that really are a "why bother spending that kind of money for such a tiny bit of capability"? Same with making larger batches of toffees and caramels. I would love a Fire Mixer and a cooling table/cutter but, there is no way I can afford that when I am limited to the small volume I am doing now. You can only make so much in a day before you crash and burn. So, I am still inching along. Feeling very frustrated at my limitations. My big splurge was a Delta. It works ok but, it has its own issues and limitations.
This is a great question. I am very passionate about chocolate manufacturing equipment. On a previous post, I described in detail my experience with Perfect Equipments entry level enrober. Acquiring an enrober has helped my production very significantly. I certainly aspire to getting bigger and more advanced equipment. I would absolutely love a Savage fire mixer. To Make a 200 piece batch of Fleur de Sel Caramels, I currently stir a pot for around 40 minutes. I would love to increase that production.
I started to pursue being a chocolatier when the economy went South and banks stopped lending. Financing expensive confectionery equipment is definitely not like financing a car. I wish there were other options other than working with leasing companies to finance excellent equipment. Perhaps there is an option I don't know about. I look forward to hearing from people who are further along in their business.
I started with a Chocovision Delta because of the accessible price, it was okay but I quickly moved into producing a lot of 3.5oz bars and it was way too much hassle.
Next I bought a 44 pound DR melter with wheel because I found it at a good price and really needed to increase production. This was fine for a few months but now 100 some bars isn't enough.
Last week I bought an 88 pound Perfect Air-4, while I haven't used it yet I bought it not only for the increased capacity but also the ability to add an enrober in the future.
I would really like a manufacturer to offer in-house financing even if it required a sizable down payment. If that was an option I (and many others) would have been able to upgrade equipment much quicker than I've been able to.
As a chocolate maker, I can tell you the piece of equipment that needs to be added that is affordable AND reliable is a conch that can make chocolate from nibs in the 60 lb capacity. There is a machine out there that can handle this, but the reliability and customer support is horrific. If a company as well respected and reliable as Savage Brothers were to enter this market space there would be many artisan chocolate makers (myself included!) that would line up for one (or more depending on price).
If you were to focus on one machine, this would it. There are other more reliable machines that can handle all other steps of chocolate making through to tempering and molding. This machine is the most needed.
I have a lot of experience with this and would be more than happy to talk to you. Send me a message if you want to discuss in more detail.
Erin - in regard to the conch problems, are you talking about who I think you are? It seems like you have some personal experience here. Can you give a few additional details about the problems you experienced? I will be in the market for this within a few months, and info like this is very helpful. Thanks.
Yes, I have a brand new (yes NEW) Cocoa Town ECGC and I have now had the pulley fall out twice. It took many days for a replacement pulley to arrive, so the original pulley was put back in before it fell out yet again. The new pulley is held in place by more than one pin, so I'm hoping this will be a better and longer lasting solution. Hearing a big thud and watching it stop spinning was unbelievable for such a new machine. The very frustrating part is that although this is obviously a design flaw (as the new pulley has a different design) and a brand new machine, they have yet to compensate me for having someone (that they talked to before the work was started) fix this. They are saying that they only cover parts and not labor despite the new machine, design flaw and talk before the work was performed. I'm out hundreds of dollars because of the multiple trips required to fix this. They said there was a possibility of getting reimbursed but I have not seen any money yet.
Also, before first using the machine I was told we had to change the oil before use and were given very explicit instructions we were supposed to follow. Part of these instructions include watching through a "window" to make certain the oil doesn't over flow. Well, for my machine there was no window.
The front and back pannel have needed to be taken off for all of this and it is clunky to do this with the current design and the way the fan is attached on the bottom.
Does this begin to give you a picture of what I've been dealing with?
Susan and Daniel are hitting it right on the head for those running a shop. You are usually opening on a shoe string unless you're gifted with a silver 401k or family. We acquire what we need to get started which is usually tempering machines, display cases, holding cabs, and use human energy to power the rest. Quickly however you realize you are gated during peak seasons and hiring more people at this level would tank the business. You need equipment, enrobers, fire mixers, guitars, etc. However you're not so far out of the initial gravity well that makes each one of the purchases ache like a root canal. There is very little in the way of early incubation machinery, it goes hobbyest to one or two rungs down from industrial and the huge growth curve in between is left rather vacant.
Always an interesting balancing act. Not sure what the real solution is, affordability is a hard balance with quality. Scaling down the equipment usually doesn't make it more affordable but with newer materials and plastics, maybe its possible. A better chain of aftermarket would help. I know many of us are auction scavengers. heh. Support the little guys better and you get our business as we grow, and many of us have a lot larger aspirations.
Hi, Andy. I'm with you on all of your response. But, going plastic is a red flag due to the fact that it is just doomed from the start if you plan on doing any kind of volume. Let's face it, our gear gets used. Kind of like the Velveteen Rabbit. We rub off our machinery's "hair" we love it so much! There has to be a way to make industrial equipment less expensive for us smaller folks. It's just gears, right? ;-)
This is a very fascinating discussion. Thank you Beata for bringing up such an important topic. It definitely is a challenge to get into serious equipment that will allow for some serious production. I can understand why certain equipment is expensive -- many of these machines can have a very positive impact on a business. I would love to see some in house financing by manufacturers. When financing a piece of equipment through third parties a $30k machine can turn into $50k when it is finally paid for.
Daniel, I'd look into equipment leasers. Highest I ever got quoted was 14% with a dollar buy out at the end. If you spent 50k on a 30k machine, that's a 70% interest rate which I can't fathom.
Now of course the caveat is your credit worthiness, but even if it was in-house credit you'd probably still be judged by the same criteria and would probably be given a very similar interest rate.
Highest you'll ever pay is a private lender and those I found run about 17-24% but that's usually for cash.