M’sianspiration is a Malaysian-based weekly series that highlights ordinary Malaysians who have extraordinary goals, lifestyles, and dreams. We hope that these people will inspire you to live extraordinarily. If you know anyone who qualifies, email and let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Chocolate has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. Busy afternoons and lack of time for an actual meal means I get to have a calorie-less chocolate bar. That’s a lie, of course. Chocolate bars are full of sinfully sweet and scrumptious calories.
And they’re worth every single bit of calorie I have to work my ass off (literally and figuratively) to burn. Lying again. I do zero exercise. The point is, chocolate is delicious and screw calories. Just writing about it is making me hungry.
It is this love for chocolate that drives 24-year-old Kevin Tan to work towards his dreams of becoming the Malaysian Willy Wonka.
The Aspiring Malaysian Willy Wonka
24-year-old Kevin Tan graduated from Legend College, Kuala Lumpur with a Diploma in Culinary Arts. After that, he worked part time in Shangri-La, LaFite and eventually moved onwards to work full-time with Mandarin Oriental Hotel for a year. It is while working in Mandarin Oriental that he got the idea to start his own chocolate business. “I noticed that most people do not know the meaning or real chocolate. Or even fine chocolate.
A lot of chocolate on our shelves are commercialized and made with cheap ingredients,” he shared. “Chocolate should be made using cocoa oil/cocoa butter, not palm oil or replacement oil that you see with the commercialized chocolate. Real chocolate use natural vanilla to enhance the flavors, and not artificial vanilla (which is cheaper).”
Maison D’lights And Humble Beginnings
His opened his business in September 2011, investing a modest RM4,000 of his own money that was saved up while working for Mandarin Oriental Hotel. He was only 21 years old when he started his own business, and was whole-heartedly encouraged by his friends and family. “I started off by making chocolate for events, wedding and corporate gifts as I can make customized packaging for them,” he said.
“I did a few trial-and-errors on chocolate before deciding on which chocolate I was going to use,” he said. This, of course, included tasting the said chocolate. Yum! Kevin shared that he began by selling his chocolate in weekend markets such as Amcorp mall’s flea market and at weekend bazaars at Subang Parade to reach out to customers while avoiding heavy rent commitments.
Not Enough Chocolate Lovers In Malaysia?
When asked about the challenges he faced, Kevin divulged that surprisingly little Malaysians eat chocolate on a daily basis. “Most people use chocolate as gifts rather than normal consumption,” he said.
This is surprising, considering how the cocoa powder in chocolate contains anti-inflammatory compounds. A research conducted by Louisiana State University showed that dark chocolate helps the gut bacteria produce these compounds that lessen inflammation of cardiovascular tissue and reduce the long-term risk of stroke. Unfortunately, most commercial chocolate, like what Kevin said, use cheaper cocoa and vanilla substitutes instead, which negates these health benefits.
Lack of casual chocolate consumption is not the only problem he had to face in Malaysia, unfortunately. Kevin said, “Trying to get the market to try a new brand or product is difficult, as most people are skeptical.” I am guilty of this as well, since I usually opt for products with familiar sounding names.
Cheap Heavenly Chocolate? Yes, Please!
When asked why Kevin is able to sell his home-made Belgian chocolate for the reasonable prices without going bankrupt, he said, “We temper, mould, and pack the chocolate here in Malaysia to be able to get it at a lower cost and sell it at a lower price in the competitive market.” He imports the chocolate from Belgium and the cocoa beans are from Africa. “Importing in bulk rather than smaller portions of finished products allows me to get them for cheaper,” he added. “We have to make the prices competitive to allow people to taste it and have confidence in the brand.”
However, making the prices cheaper comes at the expense of the owner of Maison D’lights, who has to cover the high expenses such as rent and ingredients as well as the labour required to make and package the chocolate.
Next On Maison D’lights: Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory!
“I hope that one day, I will be known as a famous Malaysian Chocolatier internationally and get my brand name out all over the world,” Kevin told Vulcan Post when we asked about his dreams and aspirations. He jokingly added that he hopes to own a chocolate factory like Willy Wonka, a famous character in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We probably know of him through the 2005 film adaptation where he was played by Johnny Depp.
“Life is not easy, but doing a business means you earn as much as you work,” he said, adding that it feels better than to be working on a fixed salary.
Kevin’s Advice to Readers
“Never give up on your dreams!” is what Kevin has to say to our readers, “Nothing is impossible if you strive through it with hard work, perseverance and dedication. Nobody can tell you what you can or cannot do but yourself.” Keep in mind that this young Malaysian started his business in 2011, when he was only 21 years old. If he can do it, why can’t you?
Hungry For Chocolate?
Maison D’lights currently only delivers to residents around Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and Subang Jaya. They offer free delivery for orders above RM100 to these places and self pick up for orders above RM20 at Petron Petrol Station Kuchai Lama, Pearl Point Shopping Mall and Scott Garden.
Sadly for those of us not in Semenanjung Malaysia, the chocolate isn’t available for delivery to East Malaysia. However, Kevin said, “I hope one day there will be a ‘cold courier service’ that I can offer to East Malaysians. It would be great to be able to ship chocolates, but the product is just too temperature sensitive and easily damaged.”
Maison D’lights prides itself in vegan, home-made chocolate. Have a look at the website and see if you’re interested in having a chocolate (or ten, we won’t judge).