Harry Specters is an award-winning chocolatier driven by a social purpose - to create employment opportunities for young people with autism.
When it comes to employability and autism the numbers are stark. According to the National Autistic Society, 700,000 individuals in the UK have autism.
Yet only 15% of autistic adults are in full-time paid employment. Fewer than 1 in 10 autistic adults receive employment support, despite 53% saying they would like support.
Founder Mona Shah was inspired to start Harry Specters by personal experience, her son Ash has autism. "When Ash was younger we were just worried what he would do once he left the safe environment of a special school". In 2012, Mona and her husband Shaz came with the idea for the social venture after a memorable family holiday in Scotland and a visit to a chocolatier. Harry Specters provides employment training as well as real work experience to people with autism.
of profit goes towards the social side of the venture.
people offered placements or paid employment since 2013
people completed short projects to raise confidence
Harry Specters growth has been spectacular - 2015 saw a 100% sales growth - and its commercial success furthers its social mission. 60p of every £1 profit goes to the social side of the business. This funds social activities and personal development opportunities for employees.
Alongside impressive commercial growth, Harry Specters creates significant impact for people with autism through employment training and work experience. Since 2013, 62 people with autism have been offered work placements or paid employment.
This has helped to increase confidence and prepare individuals either for employment elsewhere or continuing employment with Harry Specters. More than 100 individuals have completed projects with Harry Specters to raise their confidence and improve employability.
In the past year the amount paid to beneficiaries increased seven-fold. This was due to a clearer focus on providing high-quality, better paid employment opportunities.
In 2015 Harry Specters joined UnLtd's Big Venture Challenge programme. Over 12 months they received one-to-one support from a venture manager and partner organisations.
"We worked with this really great venture manager who guided us through the whole process of getting our finances right, our forecasting right, our budgeting right", says Mona, "through that we raised investment which helped us to move into new premises."
That investment allowed Harry Specters to scale. They expanded commercially and increased the number employment and training opportunities they could provide.
Their growth has helped them put the issues around employability for people with autism to a wider audience with coverage of their work in The Economist and The Times. For Mona, the value of Harry Specters' work is clear to see, "'when you see all those people with autism working here, it's absolutely brilliant".
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