Child CEO has the needy at heart

Chef at work: Armand whipping up snacks at the kitchen at his mini factory in Kinarut, Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: The sight of people queuing up outside a mosque last month, waiting for food supplies, struck a chord in 11-year-old Armand Idrizam.

“People ran out of food. But my family is lucky. We still have food to eat, ” he said.

“It made me want to do something about it.”

While it might sound lofty coming from a child of his age, Armand is wise beyond his age.

In fact, he is the “chief executive officer” of Koko Loko, a cocoa-based snacks company based in Kinarut town which is a 40-minute drive from here.

It all began in August last year when he and his family members started a home-based mini chocolate factory.

Eight months later, with the help of crowdfunding, their venture evolved to a mini factory at a commercial lot.

Their products include peanut butter spread, flavoured cocoa nibs, cocoa granola, dark chocolate (for baking/drinking), chocolate trail mix, brownies and chewy cookies.

The family’s latest initiative is called the Share and Care Box, priced at RM220 including shipping charges.

Among its contents include jars of sweet and salty cocoa nibs, cocoa rubble, cookies and chocolate trail mix.

Armand said they are giving 10% of the proceeds to the food bank at the Kinarut mosque, which is located next to the Koko Loko mini factory.

“This is held for the whole month of July in conjunction with World Chocolate Day which fell on July 7, ” said the boy who studies in SK Sri Gaya.

Further down the road, the family wants to do a programme where children who cannot not afford to buy chocolate snacks can trade them with recyclable plastics as currency.

When asked about his ambition, Armand said: “I would like to be a chocolatier when I grow up. My dream is to have a brand (as popular) as Milo.”

For now, he is keen to do a workshop for children once the movement restrictions ease up.

The eldest son of an insurance agent dad and trainer mum, Armand has already garnered some media buzz due to his entrepreneurship.

His mother Nina Othman, who is a rural empowerment and community development trainer, said Armand started selling sausages when he was six years old, together with his younger brother Faheem, 10. The youngest in the family is six-year-old Julia.

As for their chocolate factory, she said the idea started when she conducted rural empowerment training programmes in villages.

“My family would normally follow me. That is how we found a Kota Belud village with cocoa trees that were not fully utilised.

“Armand got interested to do something with cocoa after that encounter. We started researching, and the rest is history, ” said Nina, 41.

But amid all the talk about entrepreneurship, Armand is still a little boy – he said he is saving money to buy a personal computer to play video games.

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