For the soon to be released activity book about Mary Ann Craven, we wanted to interview another York Sweet maker to find out what it is like to have this career today. This is Claire and she is a Master Chocolatier who runs Nut Free Chox.
1. Hi Claire, can you tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your job?
My job is amazing! I am lucky enough to be a master chocolatier which means making and testing new chocolate products made especially for those people suffering from a nut or peanut allergy. We work hard to be gluten, egg and sesame free as these are also common allergies. I work with beautiful Belgian chocolate to make everything from lollies to chocolate pretzels!
2. Did you always aspire to be in your particular field?
That’s a good question, no I didn’t. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left education. I spent 22 years in a financial services company, another few in a medical supply company before having my son and learning first hand about having a child with allergies.
Because it was difficult to find safe treats for him I went on a chocolate training course to learn to make my own treats for him, and immediately fell in love with chocolate making. After the 5 day course I returned home and within 4 months had opened our Nut Free factory.
3. What else did you want to be when you were growing up?
I don’t think I ever wanted to be one thing, I was lucky to be brought up to believe I could be anything I wanted to be if I worked hard and applied myself. I remember I wanted to be a firefighter, but being asthmatic I wasn’t allowed to apply. I read too many Patricia Scarlett’s novels and wanted to be a forensic scientist, and by the time I left education I wandered into an administration role because I felt I was a long way off being grown up enough to chose a career, I appreciated that you can retrain, relearn and change career throughout life to fulfil your dreams.
4. Who were your role models? Are these still the same? If not, who are your role models now?
I have had a few and yes they remain the same now, but I add more because a lot of people and some of those leave me In awe of their charitable natures and contributions. My role models didn’t tend to be famous people though, they were people who inspired me from close up. People I was blessed enough to get to know, who had known adversities, some had fought their way through difficult situations, some through serious illness and all of whom continued to care for others, give of themselves, inspire, provoke, challenge, love and behave in ways I can only hope to achieve. You see, for me, your role model can be anyone that helps company that celebrates the strengths and differences between successful, high achieving female role models. you want to be a better you.
5. What training/qualifications did you need to gain?
I worked hard at school but soon realised that was only the beginning, I am a huge advocate for continual personal development and have taken more courses and exams than I can count. We are never to old to learn new things and as we change throughout life there is no limit to what you can achieve. When it comes to chocolate I have clocked up around 950 hours of training and lessons to become a master chocolatier. It’s so wonderful to love something where learning and growing is such fun it can’t be classed as work!
6. What are you favourite things about your job?
Testing products! Seriously though, the very favourite thing about my job is the feedback from customers. I cry at some. I remember a mother emailing me after Christmas to say that her nut allergic daughter turned 18 on Christmas Day. She had never had a box of safe chocolates in her life. Imagine, 18 and never one box to enjoy. Her mother gifted her one of our hampers and chocolate boxes. She filmed her daughters reaction. Her daughter cried tears of joy, followed by tears from all family members in the room as she tasted her first completely safe chocolate! To be able to be involved in people’s lives like that and to make a difference to them is a real honour and one I never take for granted.
7. Is there anything that you don’t like as much?
Running your own company can be hard work. You need to be confident, resilient and be able to assess what your strengths and weaknesses are. I don’t like book keeping, I know it’s not a strength of mine so I delegate to those who enjoy that type of work, it makes us all happy! No one is brilliant at everything, we can strive to be,
but few are, and it took me a while to understand that that’s ok, because we are all different and good at different things, for me, that’s what makes people interesting, our differences rather than our similarities.
8. Is there anything that you would like to add?
Starting out as a small business owner, with little experience of running a business and a steep learning curve was challenging. What was critical for me was a small group of honest and supportive girl friends who were strong and capable and I
admired. These strong ladies showed me what it meant to be a strong, independent, productive woman, where we can achieve whatever we want. That’s why I was so proud to be asked by Ingenues to be part of this interview, a company that celebrates the strengths and differences between successful, high achieving female role models.
Nut Free Chox - www.nutfreechox.com