Tuesday 13 January 2015

Handmade Chocolates with Social Enterprise Harry Specters

In March 2014, I organised the Cambourne Craft Fair. I contacted a company that I had spotted in an ad as they made handmade chocolates. They looked delicious! 
Unfortunately, this company could not make it along. In October, I was watching the news and I saw a report about said company and how they worked with people with Autism. I had no idea. I was super excited about the idea of a handmade business as social enterprise and felt that I would love to show my support by introducing you Crafty B's to Harry Specters. 

Here's a little bit about them from MD, Mona Shah
It was during the summer of 2011, on a family holiday to Scotland that I discovered something extraordinary. Being the mother of a 14 year old son (Ash) with autism, I was always worried about what he would do in future. While visiting a chocolate shop in Scotland, I had an idea of combining my love for chocolate with my passion for making a positive change in the lives of young people with autism. After coming back from holiday, I went on a chocolate making course and the idea firmly took hold.

In November 2012, with help from my husband and co-founder Shaz, Harry Specters was launched from a small workshop at the back of our house. Our conservatory became the packaging area! People often ask me where I got the name for the company. This is something Ash came up with, and as he is the inspiration behind the venture, it was only fitting that he got to name it.

We decided that all our chocolates would be fresh, handmade in Cambridge, with no artificial flavours or preservatives. From the very start, we sourced a company that used ethically sourced cocoa for manufacturing their chocolate. All the ingredients we use are locally sourced as far as possible.
Having decided on our product, we set out on a mission to create work experience and employment opportunities for young people with autism. As we were going to sell our chocolate online, our first job before launching the company was to build a website. We decided to have the photographs for the website taken by someone with autism. With the help of the National Autistic Society’s Prospects team, we met Caroline, a brilliant young girl who did photography as a hobby. She did a fantastic job of taking hundreds of pictures and, after working with us, switched her course at university to photography! We were scared, like anyone else starting a new venture. Would this unique idea work? Would young people with autism be able to make and package great chocolates, we thought?

With determination and passion, Harry Specters has grown. It has been a rough ride, but the rewards have been worth all the sleepless nights! By August this year, we won 4 awards for our high quality chocolates, including a 3 star gold in the Great Taste Awards. We are also the UK finalists for an award for our work with people with autism. This growth has enabled over 30 young people with autism to go through work experience. It has also enabled 100 students with special needs to participate in a design project for our branded packaging. And finally we have been able to employ six young people on a part-time and contract basis.
We now have a waiting list of people wanting to work with us, but there just isn’t enough space or capacity. We need to expand. To do that, we need to raise finances, which we are doing with our partners, Crowdshed. We are looking to buy another tempering machine in order to double our capacity. This will help us fulfil more orders and hire more people with autism. Also, many young students will use this machine for work experience, which will improve their skills and confidence, which in turn will help us further our social objectives.

We are looking to raise £25,000, but are staring off with £18,000 through crowdfunding. The funds will help us on our journey of helping people with autism lead a meaningful life. We want you to be part of this journey. By being part of the project, you will not only be part of a great cause, but you will also get great rewards, from enjoying our limited edition chocolates to naming chocolates and much more. Contributions start from as little as £1.

Details of how you can contribute can be found at www.harryschocs.co.uk

I hope you will all pop along to check out the website and show your support for such a great social enterprise. 
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