Michigan's Own Willy Wonka
Students at the University of Michigan are always told to be ambitious; the Ann Arbor lifestyle practically demands greatness, because after all, what other school’s fight song assumes that they've already won the game (“Hail to the victors, valiant…”)? These high expectations manifest themselves in a variety of ways, from high-profile doctors to future presidents. For Michigan alumnus and former SHEIstaff member Roger Ling, the Michigan difference has manifested itself in a more unique fashion: chocolate.
After years of internships and time at several major companies, Ling and his business partner Kamran Amir Ali founded Chococurb; this online venture is riding the wave of subscription services, like Birchbox and Popsugar, to success. Customers subscribe to receive a personalized gift box each month filled with delectable artisanal chocolates.
“We’re basically a chocolate discovery platform,” Ling explained during a phone conversation on a gray day from his base in Seattle, Washington. For Ling, it’s all about “creating a more fun, immersive experience for chocolate-lovers.”
This means that every one of their chocolates is carefully sourced and taste-tested by Ling and his partner. These aren’t your average Hershey’s bars; choices range from Coffee & Cream bars from the Congo to unique combinations like pretzels, caramel, and almonds, all served up in an adorable blue box. “I love sweets,” Ling said, so his sweet tooth combined with his passion for business makes this venture seem like the perfect fit.
Ling’s time at Michigan certainly contributed to his sense of innovation and ambition. He participated in all the “typical college stuff,” from Circle K to Intramural Sports to RA duties, in addition to his work with SHEI. After college, he worked at several ventures in the Seattle area, which is a hotbed for technology and business. “I actually don’t really understand people who aren’t driven and ambitious,” Ling said.
But all of that well-rounded ambition doesn’t mean that there weren't challenges along the way. Starting a new business is difficult even with all the experience and education in the world. “Every day is a learning experience,” Ling explained. “I’ve had to learn about things like packaging, supply chains.” When they were starting out, Ling and Ali would cold call businesses and chocolate suppliers, constantly working to expand their network. “Now we have more people reaching out to us,” Ling said, which is an encouraging sign that the company is gaining steam.
Chococurb has grown from a relatively simple subscription service into an online store where customers can purchase their favorite sweets. Chococurb also features a blog that is being developed that will focus on the craft of chocolate-making, helping to connect users to the products they’re consuming.
Customers have responded well to these new innovations, and they regularly voice their appreciation to Ling. “The feedback we’ve gotten so far has been very positive,” Ling said. The best part of this venture for him has been hearing how well the customers respond to the products. Their upcoming challenges are to continue building brand awareness and growing both quickly and responsibly.
Ling has set his sights high, and he’s not afraid to work for it. Ling hopes that eventually Chococurb may become one of the top companies in the chocolate business. Success is going to be sweet.
Photos courtesy of Chococurb.com