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Co-op Owned • Mildura
The Mildura Chocolate Company is a social enterprise run as a branch of the Christie Centre, a community based organisation that provides services and opportunities for people with disabilities.
Operating as a successful small business, the Mildura Chocolate Company team makes amazing chocolates, using regionally sourced ingredients, which are marketed throughout Australia.
The focus of the business is to create a place of support, employment and training for adults with a disability or experiencing a level of disadvantage. It aims for equity for each of its employees whilst meeting the commercial goal of producing high quality chocolate products.
Supervisor, Melissa Tucker, explains that the business ‘is the most amazing place and a joy to come to every day.’
“Instead of expecting everyone to be able to use the same opportunities, in this business we focus on the individual and tailor support and tasks to the person’s particular needs.”
“Our fundamental philosophy is that everyone can succeed and everyone is capable of work. This adds to the value of the individual within the context of their community and their standing as a citizen within their community.
Community partnerships have enabled the company to consolidate their businesses future. Murray River Salt has been at the fore with assistance in product development, machinery and marketing. Local growers and suppliers, Australian Premium Dried Fruits, OLAM and Go Just Nuts donate products.
The enterprise has also received support from Australia Post and Social Traders who have spread the word through the Good Spender website. The School of Social Entrepreneurs has provided training in business skills with a focus on social values whilst the Mildura Workingman’s Club has been one of the business’ largest customers.
Since they began, the Mildura Chocolate Company has grown from a cottage style business, focused on selling to the local Mildura community, to a thriving small business with its eyes on the national market.
In times where consumers are interested in the story behind the product, the business has become a favourite in its region, a much-loved workplace for its employees and a hit with chocolate fans.
As Melissa says, “Just because you are a not-for-profit doesn’t mean you can survive without making a profit, make a great product and do some good along the way.”
Melissa’s three tips for other small business operators:
▶︎ Create partnerships wherever you can, especially in your community with potential suppliers, employees and customers. Then do what it takes to maintain and develop these relationships.
▶︎ Take advantage of training opportunities. Find out about workshops that relate to your business or teach you business skills.
▶︎ Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If someone says ‘no’, it doesn’t matter, become resilient, believe in your key values and just keep on trying.