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  • Writer's pictureJoey Amato

A Conversation with Elliott and Harshit, Owners of Madhu Chocolate

Madhu Chocolate is a company born out of a passion for combining traditional Indian flavors with the decadence of chocolate. From their humble beginnings in a kitchen in Austin, TX, the couple set out to create the highest quality bean-to-bar product. They source cacao from the Tumaco region of Colombia and Idukki Hills region in Kerala, India, then meticulously roast, crack, winnow, grind, flavor, temper, and wrap all their bars by hand. Since Madhu's inception, they have been voted "Best Chocolate in America" by Food & Wine Magazine.

When was your company formed?

[Harshit]: We founded the company in our home kitchen in Austin, TX, in 2018. I am a software engineer by background, and my husband Elliott holds a degree in Food Science. His knack for developing new products and recipes, combined with my passion for chocolate, led us to start making chocolate.


How did you come up with the concept for Madhu Chocolate?

[Harshit]: On Elliott's first visit to India, he experienced a wide array of Indian desserts at my cousin's wedding. It was here that our 'aha' moment struck - why not take the beautiful ingredients, spices, and flavors from Indian desserts and blend them with our favorite treat, chocolate? The experiment was a resounding success, and the rest, as they say, is history.


What makes your products different from competitors?

[Harshit]: Our Unique Selling Proposition lies in the distinctive flavors we offer. We have ventured to introduce the Western world to unique spices, flowers, and combinations through a medium that is comforting, familiar, and delectably appealing: chocolate. Our aim is not only to educate customers about these exquisite Indian-inspired flavors and spices but also to shed light on the pressing issue of child labor prevalent within the chocolate industry.


What is your marketing strategy?

[Harshit]: Our marketing strategy is currently centered on Instagram and Google Ads. Over the past five years, we have cultivated valuable relationships with food writers, editors, and enthusiasts from highly respected firms and magazines. Our products resonated with them, leading them to feature us in their editorial pieces.


How are your products distributed?

[Harshit]: We exercise complete control over every aspect of our business, from production to distribution. Everything is crafted, packaged, and directly distributed by us to both our B2C and B2B customers. This approach allows us to infuse a personal touch into every product our customers receive in the mail. Currently, we're focused on maintaining direct relationships and have opted not to partner with any distributors. However, as part of our scaling strategy, we're approaching a juncture where partnering with a distributor may become necessary to broaden our retail network.


How is it working with your life and business partner all the time?

[Harshit]: The slow periods of the year can undoubtedly be stressful, especially since our family relies on Madhu Chocolate for support. However, generally speaking, we both genuinely enjoy working together. Our responsibilities and skills complement each other perfectly, highlighting our strengths and mitigating our weaknesses. This synergy allows us to collaborate smoothly without getting on each other's nerves (mostly).

Do you have separate roles at the company?

[Harshit]: We definitely maintain a clear division of roles and responsibilities, although there is always a little overlap. Elliott serves as our Chief Operating Officer (COO), focusing on the research and development of new products, enhancing operational efficiency daily, managing our production employees, and overseeing inventory. On the other hand, I take on the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the public face of the company. My duties encompass sales, marketing, social media management, public relations, handling interviews, managing new product releases, and overseeing website improvements. This distinct separation allows us to effectively focus on our respective areas of expertise.


How do you manage work/life balance as a couple?

[Harshit]: Working and living together as a couple can be quite challenging. Frequently, our conversations—whether during date nights or celebrations—shift towards our business. It's crucial for us to consciously remind each other to switch off our business mindset and focus on enjoying the present moment. We've made a promise to each other that after 10pm, discussions about Madhu Chocolate are off-limits, allowing us to cherish our time together without distractions. Yes, we do break that promise sometimes but generally stick to it. 


Did you face any obstacles or challenges when opening your business?

[Harshit]: As a minority-owned business with no business background and no access to family-backed funding, securing a loan from regional credit unions or banks was nearly impossible. The biggest challenge was getting started—figuring out where to obtain permits, the types of permits or licenses needed, and understanding the differences between starting a business as a sole proprietorship versus an LLC, among other things. Without a go-to document, webpage, or person for answers, it was certainly tough for us, and it took several months to find answers to all these questions."


What are your plans for growth in 2024

[Harshit]: Our plans for this year include expanding our network of retailers, working on a few very meaningful collaborations with other minority-owned businesses, extending our reach to more potential customers, and adding some very exciting products to our permanent collection.

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