We chat with our lovely customer Christina, founder of Sisko Chocolate located in Hawthorn. Her story, dedication to her field, and delicious, thoughtful products make this blog well worth a read!
Please tell us about how and when your business came about.
I had been living in California for 7 years predominantly in Sonoma County where you find fabulous wineries and fine food all around. Thinking of returning home, I wanted to explore a new skill. I had been a florist previously and enjoy the creative process of putting things together to make something beautiful. I applied this love to a new medium, which is chocolate, and began studying a culinary art program at a local college, which covered baking, patisserie and chocolate. I seriously did the whole course just to get to the chocolate section. From there I volunteered at the local Rocky Road Chocolate Factory that specialised in caramel apples and other chocolate-coated treats. I absolutely love the caramel coated granny smiths and to this day we make them in house for special occasions.
I then got my first job in a boutique chocolate shop at Saratoga Chocolates when we moved south of San Francisco. Everything was small batch, no artificial flavours and quality ingredients. Here I learnt the importance of quality ingredients and the artistry of fine chocolates. A beautiful part of the world, it was sad to leave but also time to head home. I had the time to develop my recipes and my ideas and headed back home to Melbourne to be closer to family but also to begin my new adventure in chocolate.
Living in the USA really gave me the confidence to follow a new entrepreneurial path and begin my own business.
Where did the name Sisko come from?
Living in San Francisco bay area for 7 years and moving home to start my chocolate career it was a play on the …cisco of San Francisco
Also the Sis is the last 3 letters of my married name and Ko the first 2 of my maiden name. It was a combination of those letters that I came up with Sisko. It has a connection to who I am and where I have been.
What do you believe makes your chocolates stand out in comparison to others?
I think from the very beginning we were all about creating out of the box. Presenting chocolate in ways that weren’t presented to the public before. That is the first part of our ethos. The second part is we pride ourselves on working with quality ingredients that not many other chocolatiers were working with. The combination of design and quality are our main point of difference and part of all the range
What is your best-selling product?
Our orbs continue to be our strongest gifting range and there are so many favourites in the self indulging range that it is hard to choose the hottest product, but a firm favourite is the honeycomb and rocky road bites.
What has been your most rewarding experience being in this industry?
Being in business itself is rewarding, contributing to and developing staff is the main joy. Seeing how they grow and improve skill, confidence and abilities is an amazing journey to watch.
From our clients perspective we are proud to offer them a product or service that brings joy, elegance and gratitude. We have had the honour of creating custom pieces that bring forth new experiences and happiness, which can be talked about for years to come. We have so many people recollect the first time they came across Sisko Chocolate and the joy it brought to them. That moment makes all we do the most rewarding.
Do you have any crazy stories from your business or career in the industry?
Oh yes, so many crazy stories. As a creative we are full of crazy moments. I will never forget the time I was on a super yacht in Sydney putting together a sculpture for a Rolls Royce launch and the temperature on the yacht was 28 degrees Celsius. I was to build the sculpture on the yacht before we continued to go and pick up the guests for the evening launch. Now, 28 degrees Celsius is not the temperature you want a room to be when you are assembling an upright chocolate sculpture and when I asked the staff of the yacht to put on the air conditioning they refused because they don’t run it when docked. I think that may be the first time I may have had what I call a ‘diva moment’, and said that I can’t work in these conditions and that my client has an expectation that there will be a sculpture on arrival and jumped on my phone to call the event coordinator. As soon as they saw me dialling they put on the air conditioner. In the end my client was also their client and they were not listening to what I needed to make it happen, I had to step up and be heard. That is a moment I will never forget. The sculpture was made and the client was thrilled. I flew back to Melbourne with relief.
Have you had to adapt or change anything due to COVID-19?
Yes, COVID-19 has brought on new challenges. All of our event work, product launches etc were cancelled and we had to refocus on the other areas of our business. We finally got more product up on our website and embraced online shopping. We started saying yes to more wholesale enquiries and we have had the time to work on our next chapter of retail product range, which is very exciting. We have implemented a working environment that is COVID-safe and have been open right through all the lockdowns (bar a few days in the beginning).
The ability to keep staff and customers safe is our main priority and we certainly have had our fair challenges on the mental roller coaster of COVID. We have felt proud that we could be there for our community and they have been grateful for the opportunity to have an outlet that meant that they could talk to someone, or go somewhere on their walk to pick up some sweet treats and coffees from next door.
Seeing the parcels being delivered to people in isolation for their birthdays has also been a rewarding experience. We are providing a connection between friends and family that can no longer see each other. COVID certainly has thrown its challenges at us, but we have fought through for a greater purpose and that is to help spread happiness.
How important is your Vanrooy equipment to the operation of your business?
I think if our kitchen space was larger than it currently is we would have way more Vanrooy products in here. They are seriously good at making our life easier on a daily basis. They provide consistent results for our products and we absolutely couldn’t imagine working without them. If we ever need maintenance, the response from the Vanrooy team is awesome.
What piece of Vanrooy equipment could you not live without?
The tempering machines are fabulous, if I had room in here I would totally love another one at least. Hmm, perhaps it’s time to get a new kitchen so I can have more toys.
If you could do anything differently, would you?
I believe we are all in the place we need to be and if I look back and think ‘would I change anything’, I would have to say no. I really love the lessons you learn in life and the growth they give you as a human. Sometimes they may be harder than you would like, and sometimes you wish you grew faster and didn’t learn the same lessons over and over, but I truly believe you do the best with what you can at the time.
Where do you see Sisko Chocolate in ten years / what’s planned for the future?
That is a fabulous question and one I am currently looking at with a life assistant. We actually have a meeting next week to start implementing the plan.
One thing COVID has taught us is that time is precious and what we value most is our freedom. So for me, as long as the business continues to feed my curiosity, my creativity and my ability to contribute, then I feel that I am on the right path.
What advice would you give to those out there who want to start their own chocolate business one day?
For me the most important thing is to own your own style, your own concept and your own vision as you begin your new adventure. I think when you are the product and people respond to it, it is the most rewarding thing you can do.
If you’re looking to treat yourself this weekend (or any weekend, in fact) head to https://siskochocolate.com. You won’t regret it!