Hala Audi Beydoun, founder and owner of Cocoa and Co. creates all her uniquely designed cakes, cookies and funky treats herself. Her hand-decorated, individually baked cakes with a taste of home remind us of our own childhood, when colorful candies and yummy baked goodies attracted every kid in the neighbourhood.
Hala strives to keep this “homey” flavour in her scrumptious Cocoa and Co. creations, and takes particular care in creating sweet memories for everyone with her intricate designs – from the “Dolly cakes” that every little girl dreams of, to themed and holiday cookies, as well as corporate ones.
Valentine’s is a couple of weeks, maybe we can inspire you with some cute ideas… BNL sits with the woman behind a business that started from her own kitchen.
How did you start your business?
It all started with the birthdays of my daughters. I used to hold big parties for them in the garden of our summer house in the mountains. I wanted to make everything from scratch, food, decoration, invitations… because I couldn’t find anything I really liked in the market. I invited many friends and they were all very pleasantly surprised and in awe of what they were seeing and tasting. They asked me to do some things for their kids’ birthdays and that’s how it all started.
I was having a pizza with my husband and brainstorming different options for the company name. I thought of the ingredients we use mostly which are: chocolate, milk, eggs, sugar, cocoa… hence Cocoa & Co. It summed it all up and also had a nice ring to it.
How has your business expanded since you started in terms of products and locations?
Customers were very satisfied so business grew through word of mouth mainly, and then with the help of the many interviews in mags and tv stations that came to us looking for an innovative story. We kept working from home, which we had transformed half of into a ‘factory’, for about 7 to 8 years. Then when the house could not take it anymore, we moved to our ‘Kitch’in’ almost 2 years ago. This is a big space divided into a top of the line kitchen space and a fun, colorful space for cake and cookie decorating as well as kids’ cooking classes. Of course having our own ‘kitchen lab’ helped us grow our product line and our business further.
We then felt there was a need for a ‘window’ for people to see and taste what we do. We found a pretty little shop in an authentic street in Ashrafieh and rented it. The space was big enough so we added a café corner for people to sit down and have a piece of cake with tea or coffee, or a cupcake with hot chocolate or juice, or even a cookie with a glass of milk!
And now due to so many requests, we are starting a small, distinct line of soups, sandwiches and salads!
Our clients are mainly middle to upper class families, original corporate firms and retail shops and restaurants as well as chocolatiers and souvenir shops. We cater for birthdays, kids and no kids, newborn events, baby showers, weddings, engagemenst, christenings, first communions, corporate events, holidays, and probably every special occasion possible.
Do you have clients in hospitality business?
Yes! I cater cookies to some of the biggest catering companies since they have no time nor are they crazy enough as me to spend so much time and energy on the details of each cookie. I have also made wedding cakes for a couple big chefs in the country!
I am also usually asked to cater special cookies and cupcakes for hospitality events.
What competition? No, seriously, cupcake shops are popping up like mushrooms all over the capital. It’s good to see the Lebanese are getting used to new tastes, which makes us very happy to introduce new fads in the food business and to stay one step ahead, always. Plus we have a huge variety of products and designs which does not bound us to only one or two products.
Tell us about the cupcakes and cookies craze world wide, even brands like Chanel and LV are doing their own…
As I said earlier, it is a fad, a fashion item. Cupcakes are in now. Something else I am working on now will take over now (I shall not reveal my secret just yet). decorated cookies are fun, yummy and easy to handle as well as deliver the message, so using them in fashion marketing gimmicks is no surprise.
What’s the next step?
Cocoa & Co. opened its first Boutique Café in Achrafieh. The Café currently serves an assortment of teas and coffees along with delicious cakes, cookies, cupcakes, brownies and many other specialties. There are also plenty of yummies to take home as well as gift packages for your gourmet friends.
The initial plan of growing and opening several Cocoa & Co.’s around Lebanon and the rest of the world still stands. We are also thinking of other projects that are lacking in the market, as well as other dreams still under construction.
Now Valentines is around the corner, tell us what ideas you have?
Valentine’s is my personal very best and most inspirational occasion. I love the hearts and the reds and pinks and chocolates and cupids and all. Can’t tell u more than they’re reaaalllyyy HOT!!!
Everything starting with a ‘C’ and more: cakes, cookies, cupcakes, caramel popcorn, candy skewers, as well as some with “M”: mendicants, madeleines, meringues…. And of course our infamous brownies, cake loaves, sweet sushi, malteser-brownies, Oreo truffles,…. The list goes on. We also have some salty sandwiches and savory bites as well as a lunch box perfect for kids’ birthdays and picnics.
Opening hours from 10:00am to 7:00pm, except Sundays.
For more info: +961-1-323668