Envato co-founder Cyan Ta’eed is closing her social impact chocolate startup, Hey Tiger

- May 11, 2021 2 MIN READ
Serial entrepreneur Cyan Ta'eed, co-founder of Envato and Hey Tiger, among others. Photo: Heather Lighton
Entrepreneur Cyan Ta’eed has called time on the social enterprise she’d poured her heart into over the last three years, Hey Tiger, because she was unable to make the business financially sustainable.

Hey Tiger produced a range of flavoured chocolate bars, and sought to shine a light on a range of social issues in the cocoa industry, but Ta’eed, who made her fortune from Envato, announced in a farewell letter on the Hey Tiger site  that while people loved the products, it was “hard to scale into the profitability it needed to be a sustainable social enterprise”.

While the business turned over more than $3 million annually, producing more than 700,000 bars of chocolate, the numbers didn’t stack up and Ta’eed cast a critical eye over her business to reach the conclusion the business model was not sustainable.

She said the last three years “have been some of the most incredible, most challenging, and most rewarding” of her career as she set out to make great chocolate, shine a light on the “deep inequalities in the cocoa industry” and address them.

With her entrepreneur hat on, having advised and mentored many startup founders, Ta’eed said the Hey Tiger team “had to ask ourselves difficult questions” about growth, profitability and scaling sustainably, but concluded they couldn’t deliver on the company’s “ambitious” vision

“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,” she wrote.

“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 she’s “thrilled to see awareness raising about the inequities rife in a product we all love so much” and now even large manufacturers are making progress in sourcing their cocoa.

One of her proudest achievements at Hey Tiger donating more than $400,000 to The Hunger Project, in West Africa which supports local communities with self reliance and improved living standards.

“I hope you’ll consider supporting them, especially if you’re passionate about the things that Hey Tiger has stood for,” she wrote.

Envato is a B Corp and Pledge 1% supporter, and Cyan Ta’eed said she still believes in social enterprise, and is committed to business as a force for good.

For now, with her husband, Collis, stepping now from a daily operational role at Envato late last year, Cyan says it back to 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,” she wrote.

She cites one of her favourite quotes, from the pioneering US computer programming pioneer and Navy rear admiral, Grace Hopper: 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,” Ta’eed said.

You can read her full letter here.

If you want a final fix of Hey Tiger chocolate, the company is having a 40% off sale here.