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How Jolyn Yong bootstrapped her artisanal organic choc brand, Happy Cioccolato

Jolyn Yong quit her job to spend 16-hour days handcrafting her chocolate bars. But the hard work is paying off with rave reviews.

Jolyn Yong started with only S$2,000. It was just enough to buy the raw ingredients and equipment she needed to create her artisanal chocolate. The plan was simple. If she sold her first batch and customers came back for more, she would continue.

Two years later, Happy Cioccolato has seven flavours and a limited edition raspberry chocolate cookie. Yong also has plans to venture into gelato. “I have a dream of driving around the world selling premium gelato out of a pink ice cream truck,” she laughs.

Ironically, the idea for Happy Cioccolato came from a dark place. A few years ago, a litany of unrelated incidents made Yong take stock of her life. She had gone through a painful break-up, saw a few peers passing away in freak accidents and was constantly grappling with health issues, including cystic acne that never went away no matter what she did. “I thought I would die at 30,” Yong reveals.

So she quit her job and travelled the world in search of herself. Then, during her trip to Melbourne, she received a bar of organic chocolate as a farewell gift. Before the sabbatical, she had also chanced on a YouTube video of an American who managed to cure his acne issues in 30 days by changing his diet. “It made me believe that we are what we eat. I eliminated processed food, dairy, gluten, soy, peanuts, sugar, meat and seafood. I ate mostly vegetables and fruits,” Yong shares.

(Related: Why Vikas Garg, founder of abillion, is bringing veganism back into vogue)

The ingredients - organic Ceylon cinnamon, organic coconut sugar, red dates and goji berries - that go into one of Happy Cioccolato;s flavours, Glowy Skin.

The ingredients – organic Ceylon cinnamon, organic coconut sugar, red dates and goji berries – that go into one of Happy Cioccolato’s flavours, Glowy Skin.

And that bar of organic chocolate, too. Unfortunately, back in Singapore, she couldn’t find anything similar and realised that there was a gap in the market.

Today, Happy Cioccolato has grown to the point that Yong is thinking about investing in machines to simplify the chocolate-making process. Currently, she crafts every bar by hand and each batch takes about two to three days to create.

“These questions have always been on my mind. How big do I want to grow? What kind of lifestyle do I want and how would my business be able to provide that? What brings me happiness? As my business scales, it is certainly not sustainable to be doing everything by hand from start to end,” Yong ruminates. “But I still want to honour the craft so the process can’t be fully automated. I realised what makes me happy is when I get to help people and I wish to use Happy Cioccolato as a medium to achieve that on a larger scale.”

She hopes to eventually start a foundation that provides scholarships to young girls and women in financial difficulties as well as a sustainable and environmentally-friendly cocoa farm run by females.

(Related: How his mother’s passing taught Ryde CEO Terence Zou about life and toppling giants)

Happy Cioccolato's chocolates are organic and vegan-friendly.

Happy Cioccolato’s chocolates are organic and vegan-friendly.

For Yong, Happy Cioccolato is a vehicle to spread health, happiness, beauty and inclusivity. It helps that her chocolates, devoid of refined sugar, preservatives and other extraneous ingredients, are also delicious. “I started it because I wanted to be happy. I want everyone to be happy too after eating my chocolates.”