James Le Compte is the CEO at To’ak Chocolate. A luxury chocolate brand, where sharing the origin story is everything. Founded in 2013, with their first product available in 2014 they are a Shopify merchant and are growing DTC at 50% year on year.
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James’ eCommerce Journey
James began his eCommerce journey in 1999 when he set up a web agency in Australia.
He ended up on the brand side after seeing his clients grow their businesses and being passionate about their brands.
His desire to build a brand himself compelled him to shift to the client side.
How To’ak Came About
One of the co-founders of To’ak started a rainforest conservation project in Ecuador. Through his non-profit organization Third Millennium Alliance or TMA, he looks after a particular part of the rainforest which includes cacao trees. It was there that he started cultivating cacao trees and making chocolate by hand.
Initially, TMA only focused on traditional conservation practices. It eventually expanded and became more holistic. To’ak plays an important part in this ecosystem as it pays the cacao growers 3 to 8 times higher than the fair trade price.
Leveraging on History and Tradition
To’ak works with a special variety of cacao from Ecuador.
James shares that Ecuador plays an important role in cacao history, as it is considered the birthplace of cacao. The country became famous for a variety called Nacional, which was the most sought-after variety by European chocolatiers and chocolate makers.
The supply of the Nacional variety declined when a disease broke out in Ecuador in 1916 and by the 21st century, it was already considered extinct.
It was in 2013 that James and his colleagues thought of starting a chocolate brand, in their fascination with the story of the Nacional cacao. One of their business partners, a fourth-generation Ecuadorian cacao farmer showed the group a number of trees, which they believe to have been planted before the disease came to Ecuador. After testing was done, it was confirmed that 9 out of 46 sample trees were genetically pure Nacional.
Working with a rare and special raw material led the founders to pursue a luxury brand strategy. But James explains that while their most expensive products generate the most revenue on a per product or SKU level, products on the other end of the price spectrum also contribute to their sales in a big way.
Creating a Connection with Consumers
James says they invest a lot in content, which they do in-house.
They’re currently working on coming out with either a monthly or quarterly publication to support the lifestyle element of the brand.
This will be in the form of a newsletter, which will be separate from their traditional email marketing campaigns and automation. Its focus will be on creating an emotional connection to the brand, and not so much on encouraging a sale.
Content will also revolve around the To’ak universe and the brand’s values.
eCommerce Book Top Tip
- Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t by Verne Harnish
eCommerce Traffic Top Tip
- Brand collaboration has worked well for To’ak. They recently partnered with Robb Report and came up with a co-branded product, which Robb Report marketed to their community.
Tool Top Tip
Growth Top Tip
- Take a step back and think about the different stages of acquisition and retention so you can develop a plan and make improvements based on the resources you have.
- Check out To’ak
- Thanks to Greg from Omnisend for the introduction to this awesome guest; read more about their email marketing achievements here
- 388: Taking a sustainable, money saving brand to £5m a year with Helen Rankin from Cheeky Wipes
- 392 Embedding ethics and sustainability into luxury brand Elvis & Kresse – super inspiring story
- Partnership Marketing masterclass on the Keep Optimising Podcast
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