Chocolate is a universally loved treat.
And, with one new business, it is at the fingertips of consumers without ever leaving the front door.
Hoofar Pourzand recently launched Happy Valley Melting Chocolate and Tea, a business that not only delivers on a making sweet desert, but also takes it to you: It delivers chocolate fountains, teas and other desserts.
Q: What motivated you to be a young entrepreneur?
A: It was really to my advantage to do this. I’m from a big city and decided to come to a smaller place for a reason. I can always go back to the bigger city if I do well here, but I feel there’s an advantage here.
My advantage, I think I realized when I got here. You know, I did my undergrad in another country and was an aerospace major. When I got here I had a professor who was really nice, very well rounded and always had a very clear plan. He was a fighter pilot, and they are very direct people. If you’re wrong, they say you’re wrong. He taught me a lot, including how higher education works. Sadly, so many people end up under huge debt. I’m lucky, because I have no debt. People always asked what I was going to do. After a few years, I felt I had an advantage that I could do anything, because I had no debt. Some people might not have that advantage. One thing is the same, though: No matter who you are if you want to do something you have to close your eyes and jump.
Q: Given that we are in the middle of the holiday season, this could be particularly popular time for one of your ventures, Happy Valley Chocolate and Tea.
A: It’s going to be huge. It will be much bigger than what it is. Right now, we have no advertising. We want to find people to create the design we have in mind in print and bring them on board. We want a strategy for that to have advertising to have it be way bigger, way better to build the business.
Q: So this really is a fairly young business that you are figuring out how to grow?
A: Yes. It is very young, so people might ask what it is. I tell them it is just like catering, but way cheaper. It’s part of the model — low cost, low fare. The idea is to create a more homogenous ecosystem. For example, if you are a pizza shop owner, delivery is a cost. You have to think about having a company car or hiring someone with a car. It’s a cost. The way we do this business is it starts with delivery and providing a way to make it low cost.
Q: So, the chocolate fountains, you don’t actually make them?
A: Oh, no we don’t want to do that. We don’t even want to out-buy the chocolate factories. We do want to find, as far as chocolate goes, the highest quality chocolate and take them as a partner. We’ve been successful with Sephra. We are also working with Starbucks. We are looking forward to doing business with them as a partner, too. We also, as a side, include loose leaf tea. We believe it is an emerging market, too.
Q: It seems like a simple business model. Why do you believe it will succeed?
A: The power of a business model is how it can scale in the traditional way of talking business. Not exactly how many fountains we can sell per month. We don’t care about that. We are looking and working at how we can scale. Chocolate fountains, again, aren’t the business we do. We are an infrastructure, a delivery infrastructure, that delivers to people. If you go to other delivery applications out there, you register your driver and when you drive it just gives you a map. We have more than that. We have pickups at multiple locations. We like to have other things like delivering straight to a person. That’s a new model, and that can scale very successfully.
Q: What if the business fails — does that worry you?
A: I worry all the time about failing.
Once something went wrong with one of the orders. We had to wait two weeks, so we had to put another order in. They sent it for free, but it was another two weeks. That’s almost a month. That’s everything. That’s money. One good thing about startups is that your costs on failures is very low. I don’t know why people worry about making mistakes. You should make mistakes, and you should make them fast, learn from them and move on.
So, the chocolate fountain is the business we are focused on today. For the next semester we have more coming up. We are working with other vendors completely different from melting chocolate and tea. It’s going to go with the very fabric of Pennsylvania, State College and the whole farmers community, local food, fresh food. We’re very excited about that, but there’s always the factor of fear ... What I see too often is other people do make mistakes, but they dwell on it for too long. If you make a mistake, you should grow out of it.