Client Spotlight Series: Harry Specters
For World Chocolate Day 2021, founder and managing director, Mona Shah shares with us her impact entrepreneurship story which led her to building award-winning chocolate company Harry Specters!
To mark World Chocolate Day 2021, we spoke to founder of award-winning chocolate company Harry Specters, to learn about how her journey as an entrepreneur was driven by impact and what it’s like raising investment as a founder of an impact business.
Harry Specters Limited
Harry Specters is a social enterprise producing award winning chocolates and offering employment and free training and work experience to young autistic people.
Tell us about your entrepreneur journey
Award-winning flavours and positive social change, that’s us at Harry Specters.
I (Mona), Shaz and our son Ash, who has autism, are behind this social enterprise. While visiting a chocolate shop on a holiday in Scotland in 2011, I discovered a perfect way of combining my passion for creating positive change for people with autism, with my love for chocolate. Ash came up with the name and a year later, Harry Specters was born – dedicated to crafting the most delicious chocolates that create employment for young autistic people. We started production in a kitchen at the back of our house and worked there for two years, selling online, at local markets and to corporate clients.
There came a time when we just didn’t have the space or resources to keep up with demand, and that’s when we went to UnLtd and ClearlySo to raise investment. With their help, we moved to a proper production unit, got more equipment and expanded our team. Over the years, we have improved the lives of over 300 young autistic people and their carers, and won 34 awards for the taste and quality of our chocolates.
What is the role of impact in your business?
Recent figures from the ONS reveal that only 22% of the 700,000 autistic adults in the UK are in any kind of employment. Over 61% are able and willing to work, but there is a lack of opportunities.
Harry Specters was created to offer confidence and hope to young people with autism by providing employment and free training, enabling them to produce great products, such as our award-winning chocolates. In doing so, we aim to be a role model for “great product, great cause” for other businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs. This is our social mission and at the core of every decision we make. Every autistic person who comes through our doors has a chance to gain skills that will help them secure future employment, either with us or any other place they prefer. We work closely with their families, carers and support workers to ensure we are offering them a safe and secure environment where they can grow and gain confidence. Young autistic people have the option to work in administration, production, packaging, graphic design, website and social media content or sales and marketing, depending on their skills and interests.
We have worked with UnLtd to develop our framework for measuring social impact, considering parameters like the number of employees and students on work experience placements, hours worked, and wages paid, chocolates produced, social value for the UK economy, value of respite for carers, and savings to the UK government. This report is published yearly.
What was your biggest challenge in raising investment before coming to ClearlySo?
We have been quite lucky in raising investment so far and have found lenders who believe in us and have done what they can to help. Before ClearlySo, we did look at high street banks as well as some banks that were set up specifically to provide funding to charities and community interest companies. The interest rates were ridiculously high and there was a distinct lack of support.
How has ClearlySo supported you and your business?
We have had two investment rounds with ClearlySo and they have been extremely helpful in getting us investment ready. They have worked with us on our pitch, financials, getting us in front of the right investors, as well as ordering chocolates! During our first round of investment, they were quite ingenuous and suggested we use Chocolate Bonds as one of the instruments to get funds. Most of these Chocolate Bond investors have now become shareholders in the company. There is continued support post investment, in terms of marketing opportunities and introductions to potential corporate clients.
What does the future look like for your business?
This has been a surreal year due to the pandemic. We had recently opened a physical store in a local shopping centre, with an aim to start a chocolate café. This has had to be permanently closed as it just was not feasible under the current retail climate. However, the pandemic has shown us the true potential of our online channel, with incredible sales growth. We are looking to increase our capacity, move to bigger premises and expand our team. This will produce more jobs for autistic people and further our social cause.
What’s something readers would be surprised to know about you or your company?
Firstly, we have been working with autistic people since 2012 and we have never had HR issues with them. In all this time, every non-autistic person we have hired, has given us a problem!
Secondly, we know chocolate is recession-proof, but it is also lockdown proof! People are always looking to get good quality chocolate so they can feel good, treat themselves and others, without breaking the bank. We have been through economic downturns since we started and there has been negligible effect on sales. If anything, sales increase when there is a problem!
Where can we find out more about you / your business?
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