10 Jul The Jewish Agency – Loan Fund Recipient Panda Vegan Chocolate
When mutual friends introduced Daniel, 31 and Elya, 26, they quickly discovered both were vegans. Daniel worked in hi-tech and Elya was completing her national service, but their true passion was chocolate.
As vegans, Daniel and Elya do not eat any foods made from animals or animal byproducts, so milk chocolate is on their “can’t eat” list. Their desire for an alternative to conventional milk chocolate that was still delicious led to their collaboration on a vegan chocolate recipe. Neither had a cooking or baking background when they embarked on their creative culinary journey but that wasn’t going to get in their way.
“We just started learning from trial and error and YouTube. After about two years of working on the recipe as a side hobby, we arrived at a winner,” explained Daniel.
We needed money to keep it going, so we got in contact with MATI, a nonprofit that helps develop businesses in Jerusalem. And they told us about the business loans offered by The Jewish Agency for Israel.
As they worked side by side on the sweet, Daniel and Elya fell in love; they married last year. From the beginning, they knew they wanted to share their yummy concoction with the world but lacked the money to do so. In July 2015, to raise what they needed to support their new hobby, they turned to crowdfunding. Their goal was to raise 30,000 shekels ($8,434); they instead raised 210,000 ($59,040).
“Raising so much money made us realize there is great demand for this, and we decided that it wouldn’t just be a hobby. We found a small space in Jerusalem [to produce the chocolate], but we didn’t really know how to handle it from a financial perspective,” said Elya. “We needed money to keep it going, so we got in contact with MATI, a nonprofit that helps develop businesses in Jerusalem. And they told us about the business loans offered by The Jewish Agency for Israel.”
The loan was made possible with the generosity of UJA Federation of New York Loan Fund for Israel, facilitated by The Jewish Agency’s Small Business Loan Funds program. The money enabled Daniel and Elya to get their business truly up and running.
Currently, their chocolate is only available in Israel but the couple is developing plans to expand their operation and start selling in the United States.