Throughout the Malaysia Cocoa and Chocolate Day exhibition in October, I got here throughout a bunch of various cocoa manufacturers in Malaysia. Whereas lots of them had been fascinating, one notably memorable sales space I encountered was Koko Loko.
As I sampled the chocolate nibs and granola snacks, I eyed the poster sitting on the desk.
“Our story is an efficient one,” it promised. Being a bit cynical, I had my doubts, however I saved studying. And good factor I did, as a result of it completely proved me unsuitable.
Based mostly in Sabah, Koko Loko’s “CEO” and face of the corporate is a 12-year-old by the title of Armand bin Idrizam. In accordance with the poster, he even made the emblem of the corporate himself, with the assistance of his youthful brother Faheem.
Amazingly, Koko Loko even managed to lift USD$5,615 (over RM26,000) in 2021 by means of a crowdfunding platform referred to as LaunchGood. The cash was used to lease a shoplot in Lok Kawi, Kinarut, so Armand might have his personal “Chocolate Manufacturing facility”.
“Typically I feel I’m Willy Wonka,” the poster reads. “I watched that film 5 instances!”
Absolutely invested within the story, I made a decision I needed to attain out to the model to be taught extra. So, that’s what I did.
Rising up entrepreneurial
“Hello, my title is Armand!” a vivid voice launched by means of my laptop computer’s audio system chirpily. “I’m turning 13 in November, and I’ve a enterprise referred to as Koko Loko.”
Joined by his mum, Nina, over a video name with me, the well-spoken and charismatic CEO shared to me how Koko Loko got here to be in 2019, when his mom had begun main cocoa workshops in rural areas.
These workshops led them to a village referred to as Kampung Tambatuon, the place they encountered a whole lot of deserted cocoa bushes.
“We had the concept to assist them to not waste the produce of the land and cocoa bushes,” he says.
After sketching out some concepts, Koko Loko launched in 2020 with granola snacks, flavoured cocoa dips, and extra.
However Armand’s entrepreneurial spirit didn’t simply seem out of nowhere. Relatively, it’s one thing that he’s had since he was even youthful.
“I actually prefer to earn my cash alone,” he shared. “Once I was six, I used to have a wholesome sausage enterprise. I used to promote them to my associates, my mum’s associates, kin, and every part like that.”
Though he was unable to proceed the enterprise as soon as the household moved to Sabah, it turned out to be for the higher as he now has Koko Loko.
Mum Nina is probably going the one who has fostered Armand’s entrepreneurial streak. Aside from introducing him to the world of chocolate, she additionally runs her personal social enterprise, Develop the Goose, which helps youngsters be financially empowered.
Duties as a CEO
Because the profitable crowdfunding marketing campaign, Armand’s dad has additionally stepped in to assist with Koko Loko.
“Dad is principally the manufacturing facility supervisor now, since Boy (Armand) has to go to highschool,” Nina defined.
Nevertheless, Armand remains to be an integral a part of the corporate, and is deemed its CEO.
“I don’t know what different CEOs do, however that is for me,” Armand mentioned when requested about what his obligations within the firm entail.
Taking up a really hands-on position, Armand helps with baking the cookies, washing the dishes, cleansing the place, serving to with packaging, making invoices, and naturally, socialising.
He picked up baking from his mum, having tried his hand at it since he was younger.
“I actually like the method,” he mentioned. “And I actually like the result.”
Whereas the executive process of typing up invoices was one thing he just lately acquired, although, his networking abilities are considerably inborn.
“I like socialising,” he mentioned. “[Even] once I was six, I wasn’t scared to start out speaking to individuals.”
Contemplating his manner throughout our dialog, I can vouch for that.
Discovering a trigger
When requested about what units Koko Loko aside from different chocolate manufacturers, Armand first shared about its product combine, which incorporates snacks, cookies, cocoa nibs, and extra.
However apart from that, he additionally needed to make clear the corporate’s initiative.
“I don’t know if different firms do that, however my mum taught me this from her workshop, Develop the Goose, to have an initiative to go along with your corporation,” Armand mentioned. “So, mine is assist the corals and mangrove.”
This initiative was impressed by Armand’s curiosity in diving, which began when he first went to Sabah. On the time, he noticed vibrant corals and a sturdy sea life. Nevertheless, after a number of years, he discovered that the seashores had been now full of trash, leading to useless corals and rising sea ranges.
Thus, Armand is now dedicating round 10% to twenty% of Koko Loko’s earnings to the inexperienced initiatives.
Aside from saving the corals and mangroves, Koko Loko additionally claims to pay its farmers higher-than-market wages, in accordance with its poster.
“We train them the steps to make our cocoa nibs, so it’s a win-win,” Armand defined. “They get extra revenue, and we get higher high quality merchandise.”
Previous to this, Armand mentioned the farmers had solely offered unprocessed cocoa. However with the assistance of Koko Loko, they now have the abilities in addition to the gear to extend their earnings.
This was made doable due to Koko Loko’s crowdfunding marketing campaign, which was triggered by the corporate’s lack of kit, because it was home-based to start with.
A piece-school steadiness
At 12 occurring 13, faculty is unquestionably nonetheless a precedence of Armand’s. As such, he solely works on Koko Loko as soon as he’s performed together with his homework or over faculty holidays.
He admitted that the work does get overwhelming at instances, however fortunately, he has the assistance of his household.
Aside from balancing his time, Armand mentioned that the opposite challenges for Koko Loko includes the cocoa yield in addition to labour. As such, the crew is now seeking to rent extra workers and work with extra farmers.
“I need to broaden as large as Milo,” Armand mentioned. “Everybody in Malaysia is aware of about Milo, so I form of need to be like that.”
On a smaller scale, Armand hopes to place Koko Loko merchandise on the cabinets of grocery shops and cafes.
“Oh, and I additionally need to restore the coral reefs in Sabah,” he added.
Ever-so formidable, the younger entrepreneur says he does see himself beginning new companies sooner or later, although he anticipates to proceed engaged on Koko Loko.
“It began off as an experiment, simply as a pastime, as a result of he was bored throughout the pandemic,” mum Nina had talked about throughout our name.
Nevertheless it looks like that experiment has grow to be a full-fledged operation, led by Armand’s ardour and ambition for chocolate.
- Study extra about Koko Loko right here.
- Learn different articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups right here.
Featured Picture Credit score: Koko Loko