Cyan Ta’eed set herself up for life when she co-founded one of Australia’s most successful tech startups, Envato. Now, she’s giving back by supporting cocoa farming communities in Ghana with her handmade, ethical chocolate.
Cyan was inspired to act when she learned how big some of the problems within the cocoa industry are.
According to the Cocoa Barometer's biennial report on the state of sustainability in the cocoa industry, West Africa is the largest source of cocoa in the world, accounting for 2.9 million tonnes across 2017 and 2018. Yet, many of the cocoa farmers in that region live in extreme poverty and earn as little as 78 US cents a day.
The incidence of child labour is also high with an estimated 2.1 million West African children working in cocoa fields.
This is why Cyan started the chocolate brand Hey Tiger, in partnership with The Hunger Project - a global, not-for-profit organisation committed to the sustainable end of world hunger and poverty.
For every bar sold, a fee is donated to The Hunger Project to aid its holistic and empowering work with cocoa farming communities in Ghana. This includes offering microloans and financial literacy programs to farmers, as well as encouraging sustainable farming practices and providing early childhood education.
“It’s amazing the work that The Hunger Project does and I feel so privileged to be a part of it,” says Cyan.
But first, Envato
Before dipping into chocolate, Cyan first broke ground within the tech and creative community.
She started her career as a graphic designer, studying visual communication at Swinburne through Billy Blue College of Design.
Following her graduation in 2003, she quickly landed a job as a junior designer with the Sydney-based agency How Graphic Design. However, as she began to get more freelance clients, she decided to strike out on her own.
As a freelancer, Cyan often teamed up with her husband Collis Ta’eed, a web designer.
While working together, they always discussed how helpful it would be to have a platform where they could purchase stock from other creatives, including everything from images to flash files, website themes, audio and more.
And so, in 2006, they launched Envato – a digital marketplace for creative assets and creative people – from her parent’s garage.
Over the years Envato has grown into a multi-million dollar company with hundreds of employees, asserting itself as one of the most successful Australian startups.
The venture even scored Cyan a Telstra Business Woman of the Year award in 2015.
Hello, Hey Tiger
Cyan says the core value at Envato has always been ‘when the community succeeds, we succeed’.
“We don’t focus on our revenue as an organisation, but rather what we earn for our seller community,” she says.
So, when the time came for her to launch a new project, it only made sense that it was a social enterprise.
Cyan was eager to make a physical product that was fun, creative and resonated with women. And what better than chocolate?
“I was watching food trends come out of the US and I saw a few chocolate brands experimenting with flavours in a way we just weren’t seeing in Australia,” she says.
“They were also targeting women, which to me made so much sense.”
She did this, all while hoping to make a difference in the cocoa industry.
“In 2010, the cocoa industry committed to reducing the amount of children working in West African cocoa fields to 200,000 by 2020," she says.
“However, there is still loads of work to be done, with an estimated 2.2 million children currently being exploited.”
“I wanted to work on impacting that with Hey Tiger.”
Hey Tiger has quirky yet delicious flavours such as Peanut Butter & Pretzel and Butterfly Pea, Coconut & Lemon | Image: Hey Tiger
Compared to Envato, starting Hey Tiger was quite a different experience for Cyan.
After all, Envato was launched from her parents’ garage and you can’t do that with a perishable product.
“The level of organisation, physical space and infrastructure needed for Hey Tiger was so surprising to me, as was the initial investment,” she says.
“You have to commit before even testing it out in the market.”
“I have so much respect for anyone who creates a physical product – it’s certainly not for the faint of heart.”
But that shouldn’t discourage aspiring entrepreneurs, according to Cyan.
“It would be silly to imagine that it wouldn’t be challenging,” she says.
“So long as you are excited about what you are doing, that is what being an entrepreneur is about.”
“It might be the first or the 10th idea that takes, but every time you create you’ll get better at bringing ideas to life.”