Going viral on TikTok has brought DSRT Co., Summer Badawi’s bakery in Hamilton, to international audiences — but it has also exposed her to a wave of virtual hatred.
“People on the internet can be very brazen with what they’re saying,” said Badawi.
Badawi said she has received death threats and insults, has been mocked for how she speaks, and has had people search out her personal accounts to harass her.
A major source of the negative comments come from the cost of her chocolate bars.
Some of the 4.3 million people who have watched her videos don’t like that her signature DSRT bars, which she said take hours to make and are meant to be cut and eaten by the slice, cost $25.
“They have no context for what that means. They just think I’m literally insane,” Badawi said, explaining the process and materials used to craft the decadent treats warrant the cost.
Badawi’s DSRT Bars are made with a hard, visually stunning chocolate shell and filled with a variety of ingredients, including homemade ganache, homemade biscoff fudge, and often contain entire other chocolate bars inside, like Kinder Buenos and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Badawi’s first employee, Chloe Gonneau, said the negative comments that bother her most are about the chocolate bars’ unusual look.
“It can just ruin your day when people just diminish your product that you put so much hard work into and say it must be flavorless and gross. It’s like, ‘No, it took me three hours from start to finish,'” she said .
On top of material costs, Badawi is a living wage employer, which adds to the overall cost of her business.
“I think because TikTok is an app where most of the videos that are pushed through in the algorithm are, you know, about… 10 to 15 seconds… The maliciousness, I think, follows that same level of shortsightedness,” said Badawi.
Going viral with chocolate
With almost 200,000 followers and 4.3 million likes on her videos, Badawi’s chocolatier business has become a viral success.
Her videos mostly show how she makes her decadent DSRT Bars, but also give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at how she runs her business.
It started as a hobby for Badawi, 33, and has taken off over the past year. She has gone from making her bars at home to owning a store on Main Street with a staff of six workers.
Badawi said she found her niche with chocolate after years of experimenting with different kinds of baked goods.
“I purchased probably about $1,000 worth of chocolate textbooks, and manuals and subscriptions,” she said.
“I basically just taught myself how to temper the cocoa butter and how to deal with all of these things.”
Badawi rebranded The Perfect Bite into DSRT Co. last year when her TikTok videos began going viral.
The videos allow her to reach millions of potential customers around the world. Badawi while it has been good for business, shipping chocolate worldwide isn’t easy.
“We have to wrap things in insulated material with ice packs. And it’s just a lot of packaging,” she said.
“It takes a lot of time, but so far so good. They’ve been arriving mostly fine.”
While most of her orders are across North America, Badawi said, she wants more people in Hamilton to know she is a local—something Gonneau wants known as well.
“A lot of people are often surprised that we’re even Canadian, and especially in Hamilton,” said Gonneau.
DSRT Co. products are sold through its website launches every few weeks. Their launch for the second week of July was their largest yet, with almost 700 bars sold.
It takes the store two weeks to make and ship all their orders before they start the process again.
It started with a blog
Before DSRT Co., Badawi tried her hand at a few different kinds of baking.
In 2014, she started a food blog called “Feeding My Addiction,” which Badawi said was about her experiences with the eating disorder anorexia.
“Most of my adolescence was actually spent in a treatment hospital,” she said. The blog began as a way to help with her recovery from her.
“Feeding My Addiction” was a place where Badawi could share the recipes she was creating as she worked toward gaining weight.
Badawi was a youth worker at the Hamilton YMCA, and that’s when she started bringing to work the baked goods she made for her blog.
“That started people wanting to buy them from me and I started a business.”
The Future of DSRT Co
DSRT Co. going viral to an international audience has resulted in having to scale up the business.
“It’s not just like if someone’s posting a cute video of a puppy,” she said. “If millions of people see him, it’s just a cute video.”
In comparison, Badawi said, she now has to pay six employees and has all the costs that go with a physical store.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s good.”
DSRT Co. currently only sells products online, although they can be picked up in store.
The store on Main Street is a kitchen and packaging facility, something Badawi hopes to change in the future.
“I’m from Hamilton and we’re looking at getting a retail component to the business, so I do want people to be able to eventually stop by and see the bars in person.”
Badawi’s plan to open a storefront is still up in the air, but her hope is to have it by the coming fall.
Badawi also hopes to form a charitable collaboration with another Hamilton food blogger, The Joyce of Cooking, in August. The two are still working on the details, but the goal is to use a portion of DSRT Co.’s sales to help feed children in the Hamilton region later this summer.