A farewell letter from our Founder, Cyan Ta'eed

Three years ago, I set out with two goals for Hey Tiger. First, I wanted to create an incredible chocolate experience that would surprise and delight everyone who tried it. Secondly, and more importantly, I had come to learn of deep inequalities in the cocoa industry and saw business as a way to raise awareness and fund projects to help address those inequalities.

The last three years have been some of the most incredible, most challenging, and most rewarding of my career. Our team created a constant stream of recipes, flavours and innovations that brought people genuine joy. Together, we built a brand that challenged the status quo of what a chocolate business looks like by melding fashion, beauty and deliciousness in one intricate explosion of visual design and messaging. And best of all, some 700,000 bars of our handmade, delicious chocolate made their way to thousands of happy people throughout Australia and beyond.

Like any start up though, we’ve had to ask ourselves difficult questions. Do our products resonate with customers? Can we grow? Can we generate profits? Can we scale sustainably? As I’ve advised many other entrepreneurs over the years, sometimes even with the best vision, incredible people, and a lot of hard work, the answer to some or all of these questions isn’t what you want it to be. And that's the conclusion we have drawn here at Hey Tiger. Alas, after three years, we’ve taken the enormously difficult decision of closing down the Hey Tiger line of chocolates.

From the outset, the vision was an ambitious one. In creating a chocolate experience like no other, we designed a business that customers absolutely love, but that was hard to scale into the profitability it needed to be a sustainable social enterprise. As the scale of our chocolate production grew, so did the tensions between the very things that made Hey Tiger special and its ongoing viability. Ultimately while succeeding in one goal, we couldn’t reach the other.

Nonetheless, even in just three short years in this industry, I’ve been thrilled to see awareness raising about the inequities rife in a product we all love so much. Not only are more socially-minded brands helping customers understand the impact of their decisions, but some big food manufacturers are making progress in their sourcing. I hope that in our time in the industry Hey Tiger has contributed to this critical conversation. There is, of course, still many miles to travel on this road, but I believe there’s good reason to be optimistic. 

Customer awareness was only one part of our social mission. The other, and perhaps more important one, was direct and ongoing financial commitment to The Hunger Project, who operate on the ground in West Africa and beyond, supporting communities to achieve self reliance and improved standards of living. Together with you, our total donation to THP is over $400,000. I also wanted to take a moment to say what an incredible organisation The Hunger Project is, and how impressed I’ve been with their work. I hope you’ll consider supporting them, especially if you’re passionate about the things that Hey Tiger has stood for.

Behind every business are people, and when all is said and done, I have been most grateful and humbled by the team at Hey Tiger. Watching our team work over the last three years has been nothing short of an absolute privilege, and I will hold all their friendships in my heart for the years to come. It was because of this incredible group of people who decided to go on this journey with me that we got so far on such a big, audacious plan. Hey Tiger has always been theirs as much as mine.  

One of my favourite quotes is that “a ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” It’s vital that entrepreneurs and dreamers everywhere take risks, go big, and try. In the end, we may not have stuck the landing, but I’m still glad we took the leap.

I want to thank everyone, the team, the supporters, the suppliers, the wholesalers, the brands and the artists we’ve collaborated with and all of those taste testers who helped us finesse our art. But most of all, I want to thank all of you who bought Hey Tiger, whose purchases funded work in cocoa communities, and whose feedback we lived on for all these years.

I still believe in social enterprise, and am committed to business as a force for good. I’m back at the drawing board planning whatever is to come next. But in the meantime, if you aren’t already, I encourage you to use the incredibly powerful tool of your purchasing decisions to help make the world a better place.