Harry Specters graduated from Cambridge Social Ventures in January 2017.
Harry Specters builds confidence and hope in young people with autism by providing employment and free training whilst enabling them to produce award-winning chocolates. In doing so, this social enterprise aims to be a “great product, great cause” role model for other businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs.
Mona Shah is an experienced NHS corporate governance advisor with a love of chocolate, an autistic son and the mindset to make a difference. Whilst feeding her passion for chocolate, undertaking a chocolate making course, Mona had an epiphany: making and packaging chocolate involves a series of very routine tasks; perfect for individuals on the autistic spectrum. Having become increasingly aware of the lack of employment opportunities for people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, like her son, Mona spotted an opportunity to make a difference. The social enterprise that was to become Harry Specters began its evolution.
“According to research conducted by London School of Economics, autism is the most costly medical condition in the UK. It costs more than heart disease, cancer and stroke combined. Autism costs the country at least £32 billion per year in treatment, lost earnings, care and support for children and adults with autism,” explains Mona
“Most people want to lead meaningful lives. They want to be contributing members of society. People with autism are no exception. It is estimated that out of 350,000 people with autism of working age in the UK; only 15% are in full-time employment; 61% of those not employed are desperate to work and 79% of those on Incapacity Benefit want to work [figures from the National Autistic Society]. There is no doubt that for people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, finding paid employment is a major challenge. This affects them mentally, physically and financially.
“Our vision at Harry Specters is to enable young people with autism to become contributing members of society. Harry Specters will live this dream by creating employment opportunities and by partnering with other organisations working within the field of autism.
“After working with many young people with autism, we now know that they love making and packaging chocolates because the tasks are very structured. Our experience shows that people with autism are loyal and like to contribute and what makes them really unique is their attention to detail. And since it is a spectrum, we find that some of them are very creative and others like a very structured approach. In general, we know that by creating an environment suitable for their working needs, we can help them become very productive workers, we can help them to contribute to society,” explains Mona.
- Mona Shah, Founder, Chocolatier and Managing Director
Mona has been working with chocolate as a hobby for the past 17 years and has undertaken professional chocolate making courses at the Callebaut Chocolate Academy. As a chocolatier, she has won five awards, including the coveted three-star Gold Great Taste Award. She has a degree in business and has worked in the NHS mental health service in corporate governance. She is passionate about making a positive change in the lives of people with autism.
- Shaz Shah, Co-Founder and Director of Marketing
Shaz has 18 years’ experience in the technology sector having worked with multinationals and medium sized companies. He has an MBA degree from Cranfield School of Management and was a founder of a technology company, which he built up and later sold. He likes to mentor people from disadvantaged backgrounds in order to make a positive change in their lives.
- Julie Jordan, Non-Executive Director
Julie is a retired solicitor with more than 30 years’ experience as a corporate and commercial lawyer, most recently in the law firm Mills & Reeve. In this role Julie advised NHS bodies and independent sector organisations contracting with the NHS on a wide range of commercial law matters. Julie lives in Cambridgeshire with her partner and a son who has Asperger Syndrome.
Since launching in December 2012 Mona has been successful in winning support from Price Waterhouse Cooper’s Social Impact scheme, gaining a start-up grant from Lloyds School for Social Entrepreneurs, another grant from UnLtd’s Big Venture Challenge Programme and further investment from Clearly So’s social angels. She has also gained media coverage from The Times, The FT, The Guardian, The Daily Mirror and BBC Look East, raising awareness about the positive contributions people with autism are able to make to society, if only given the chance.
Harry Specters’ has a comprehensive social impact framework that uses PWC’s six-stage model for measuring and articulating social impact. Ultimately the potential long-term impact of this enterprise includes:
- raising awareness of usefulness of people with autism
- creating employment for people with autism
- improving life satisfaction for people with autism and their families.
Over the long term these outcomes will save the public purse a significant percentage of its £32 billion annual treatment, benefits, care and support costs for people with autism.
Key performance indicators of social value, and scores for 2015, include:
- one full-time employee
- three part-time employees
- six contract staff
- 16 students completing work experience
- five pieces of media coverage promoting usefulness of people with autism
- 43 carers supported.