“Sad is an understatement,” described Sofia, who was fired from her job at an international oil and gas company last year. Global closures to curb the spread of COVID-19 had led to a drop in oil demands, prompting Sofia’s fate as a former field engineer.
“I was committed to my job and spent longer days working (even on weekends) instead of spending time at home. For someone career-oriented, it was not easy to face the reality of being unemployed, ”he added.
In the back of her mind, however, the 27-year-old always knew fieldwork was not for her. Despite working with the dream job of a STEM graduate, the scorching heat of the sun and the laborious tasks of handling 60-inch sleds became too much for her.
Now unemployed with a bit of a pause to ponder, he concluded that losing his job would probably be a blessing, as it was the only way he saw off-field work. At the same time, Sofia had been born into an entrepreneurial family, so she believed that starting a business was an eventuality for her.
With a new outlook on life, Sofia realized she could turn an old hobby of hers into a pastry business. Grouping the RM 3,000 savings for her and her husband, Cocoa bells was launched in February 2021.
From burning heat to frozen hands
The name was taken from cocoa beans and their favorite place on earth, Maroon Bells in Aspen, USA, where she studied, when Sofia often made chocolate bombs to enjoy during the cold winters. The idea of marketing his hobby only made sense, as he wanted to bring the illusion of drinking hot chocolate to the Malays.
Before launching the business, however, Sofia wanted to make them more presentable, with a surprise inside when she melted with hot milk, like a bath pump. With her sister, whom Sofia credited as her greatest advocate, they spent more than 2 months in R&D to determine the best possible ingredients and proportions to create the products.
Tempered chocolate is also difficult to make in the humid and hot climate of Malaysia. For a clean, smooth, shiny finish, the chocolate molding depends heavily on the temperature around it and must be shaped quickly before it hardens.
Sofia told Vulcan Post that before installing an air conditioner in the kitchen, she would dip her hands in an ice bath before mounting the chocolate bombs. It was a matter of avoiding any fingerprints or gloves that would be marked on the chocolate shell.
A party drink
All of Sofia’s work probably paid off as well, as the pumps provided a simple and enjoyable hot chocolate making experience for consumers. Before the recent MCO, my classmates tasted Sofia’s confectionery and shared that their unanimous favorite was So Mocha Love.
By taste, the team found it a little too syrupy for their taste, as they made each cup with less milk to get better Instagram photos. Doing so with a fuller glass of warm milk provides more balance to taste and sweetness. Once soaked in hot milk, it was a lovely spectacle to see the marshmallows come out of the chocolate shell.
These would go well with kids or as a fun addition to surprise friends and parties. And, the celebrations market also coincides with Sofia’s customer base.
Ever since Cocoa Bells was launched near Valentine’s Day, its founder reported that the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “People bought chocolate bombs for women, couples, friends and family. We were lucky to find our regular customers who continued to support us until now, ”he recalled.
It should also be noted that Cocoa Bells is not the only producer of chocolate bombs in Malaysia as the brands Choco Bomb i Coco Raw they offer their own versions. While Sofia’s business stands out, it’s at its lowest prices. The box of 4 Cocoa Bells is RM32 (no promotions), while its competitors sell theirs above RM50.
To date, Cocoa Bells has sold more than 2,000 chocolate bombs to customers in the Klang Valley. Sofia hopes to one day automate the production of chocolate bombs to meet larger volume orders, as she finds that she makes them by hand limiting herself to the potential of the business.
Don’t look back
There is no doubt that being an entrepreneur and an employee are very different. Being the latter, there is the security of knowing that your salary will be deposited into your bank account at the end of the month. “As an entrepreneur, some days can be a bit shady and that is the risk we need to be prepared for. Nothing is easy and you just have to have faith, ”advised Sofia, who said she is now much happier running Cocoa Bells.
Nor does it plan to return to the oil and gas industry.
After the recession, they called me back to join my company and I decided to continue with Cocoa Bells. I love the challenges and excitement the field offers, but nothing beats the feeling of seeing my own parents and family every day and getting older with them.
Sofia, founder of Cocoa Bells.
- You can find more information about Cocoa Bells here.
- You can read more Malaysian startups we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Sofia, founder of Cocoa Bells