Students find success with paleo sweets
Six teenagers from Henderson High School are revelling in the success of their new business that caters for health conscious chocolate lovers.
Year 13 business students Winnie Edmonds-Hall, Felicity Siaki, Jessica Vogel, Sarah Methven, Fola Tuula and Reuben Esau started their business El'Paleo as part of the Young Enterprise Scheme 2014.
The initiative, set up by the Lion Foundation, gives year 12 and 13 pupils the opportunity to create and run their own business for a year.
With the help of teacher Yasmin Gray, the Henderson High School group came up with the idea to produce a new kind of chocolate that would suit a global dieting phenomenon.
"Our teacher found a gap in the market for paleo chocolate," Sarah says. "She was interested in the paleo diet and she's a chocolate lover."
Founded by American scientist Dr Loren Cordain, the paleo diet encourages people to adopt a Stone Age diet by replacing processed foods with natural, organic alternatives.
Because other chocolate brands use processed ingredients and contain dairy and gluten, the students decided to "take on the challenge" of producing a paleo-friendly treat, Sarah says.
Since April, they have worked alongside Henderson chocolatier Bjorn Svensson, producing their chocolates in his commercial kitchen on Bruce Mclaren Rd.
"We were the first Auckland team to go into production in the Young Enterprise Scheme," Jessica says.
El'Paleo chocolate contains base ingredients of coconut oil, cocoa powder, almond butter, honey, desiccated coconut and vanilla bean paste. Natural oils are added to create flavours like mint and orange.
While the students admit the paleo diet may be a fad, they say their chocolate will still be a success.
"People who aren't on the paleo diet still really like our chocolate and they're still buying it," Sarah says.
"It's also for dairy-free and gluten-free people," Winnie says.
El'Paleo has thrived in the Young Enterprise Scheme, winning first place at the West Auckland regional finals of Dragons Den where the students had to pitch their business idea to a panel of judges.
"It was nerve-racking," Winnie says.
"But it gave us insight into how other teams were going, how they pitch and what we need to clean up on," Felicity says.
Adding to its win, the team also received a $500 grant from the Pacific Business Trust and Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs which it spent on ingredients and marketing to kickstart the business.
El'Paleo will sell its chocolate at markets such as Zeal and the Oratia Farmers Market and work on bringing in orders from across the nation.
"A lot of people from Wellington and Christchurch know about our product," Sarah says.
"We've got a lot of comments on our Facebook page asking ‘are we able to order?' so our website's almost done."
The students have also been invited to the Food Show at the end of the month and head to Wellington in December to take part in the final stage of the Dragons Den competition.