Lucy Grace is the proprietor of Grace Chocolaterie, a small innovative enterprise on a mission to change how Kenyans perceive and consume chocolate.
The entrepreneur who spent 35 years working as a lecturer, teaching English and French at a hospitality university in Switzerland said she never thought of going into chocolate production.
She noted that she stumbled upon the opportunity while looking for something new to do after moving back to Kenya.
Here is her story as told by WoK.
When Grace moved back to Kenya, she thought of a business to invest in, and later settled on opening a chocolate shop after doing research.
In an interview with KTN News, she noted that the research included looking for cocoa bean suppliers since they are not grown locally.
“I knew they grow cocoa in Tanzania and Uganda but I did not have contacts. When I came, I had to research and find exactly where I could source the cocoa beans,” Grace said.
Fortunately for her, she managed to reach suppliers in different parts of Tanzania and Uganda after contacting them through the internet.
Grace explained that while starting the business, she focused on making chocolate pralines, but later realized that most people loved chocolate bars.
“That was my first step but I realized people love bars, and that’s when I decided to start making bars and I went all the way
“I got 18 different types of bars which; from white to the dark but different flavours. I completely diverted from pralines and went to bar,” she explained.
Initially, Grace explained that they would market and sell their products to different open markets and stores.
“…they are very open because we don’t know anyone. We would walk in, give them some to test and they would say they’ll take it,” she said.
She further explained that she purposely considers quality of her products in order to beat global producers of chocolate in the local market.
“When we present out chocolates, we let people taste them and that is the opening that gives us something nice,” she said.
While starting off, Grace mentioned that an entrepreneur will need some basic machines for small scale production.
“It’s a huge investment and I’m still there almost three years down the line. I’ve not grown yet but hopefully I’ll grow a bit,” she said.
Grace who worked as a lecturer in Switzerland noted that she wanted to engage in something different when she relocated back to Kenya.
“I knew I wanted to do something different. Even though my friends and family were telling me I would do well in Kenya as a French teacher, I was done
“I had been teaching my whole life for more than 30 years! It was time I tried my hand in something new,” she stated.
She mentioned that her main challenges include the high cost of equipments forcing her to do majority of stuff around the shop manually.
“That’s why I can only make about 60 bars a day – the truly artisan chocolate takes a lot of time. And it’s not just about the work itself
“You have to understand the environment around you because chocolate is very sensitive to temperatures, humidity, the weather overall,” Grace added.