“I've heard tell that what you imagine sometimes comes true.
― Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
By way of introduction, I’m Charlie and I do genuinely have a chocolate factory. As you might imagine, working with chocolate and spending time inventing new products is pretty sweet!
The motivation to create my own brand of chocolate, apart from wanting to say “I am Charlie with a chocolate factory”, came after I had switched to a plant based diet. I couldn’t find any milk chocolate alternatives that satisfied my cravings, so I decided I would learn the art of bean to bar chocolate making and invent my very own.
At that time I didn’t know chocolate would become my thing. I was squirreled away in my garden shed selfishly creating a product for just me. Two years on, after I’d finally cracked a recipe I couldn’t resist, I was carrying the chocolate around in my backpack as a snack. Colleagues would come up to me at work and be like “hey, have you got any of that sweet stuff on you”. I’d then proceed to take dodgy tin foil parcels out my bag and break bits of chocolate off for my customers.
People loved the chocolate, and I loved making (and eating) it. Could this be a business I had created by accident? I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and up until this point I had spent my life working in as many different industries as possible so I could find my passion. Nothing had fired me up enough to take the plunge into owning my own business, but chocolate was certainly pulling me closer to this dream than ever before. Something was still missing though…
Why did I switch to a plant based diet? I get asked this question a lot and honestly I enjoy the question, as it gives me an opportunity to talk about a topic that needs way more air time - Mental health.
From a very young age I lived with quite severe anxious feelings and thoughts, which only got worse as I moved into my early teens. The anxiety I was experiencing was impacting my ability to learn in school, and socialising was absolutely terrifying. We didn’t talk about mental health like we do now, so I just believed I wasn’t very good at life.
I was in my early twenties when I made a plan to not be here anymore. Fortunately for me an incredible lady (my manager at the time) noticed the signs and got me professional help. For the first time in my life I understood what anxiety and depression was and that it didn’t belong to me, it was something I was experiencing. Therapy helped me understand this and it started me on a journey to a healthier and happier life.
Talking to someone really did help but it didn’t bring about the changes I wanted to see, so I started exploring other ways to improve my mental wellbeing. After lots of talking, experimenting and reading I finally discovered an article in Forbes magazine about a guy who’d treated his bipolar with food. I couldn’t believe that changing his diet had helped save him, but after all the things I had tried, I was certainly willing to give it a go.
I started experimenting with food myself and almost instantly I saw the positive changes in my mood and energy. Eating differently also gave me the energy to start exercising, which in turn gave me the headspace to start working on undoing a lifetime of negative thought patterns. It was life changing, and it saved me.
After experiencing this change, I felt more people needed to know about the strong connection between what we eat and how we feel. So I launched an online platform called My Mental Health and started sharing what I had learnt. Meanwhile I was continuing to experiment with food and lifestyle changes.
It was 2016 when I finally found myself on a plant based diet, and it was the first year I didn’t have a bout of depression or a single morning of waking up feeling anxious for no reason. I haven't looked back since.
So back to the chocolate...I had this product that everyone seemed to like, a mental health platform that I was deeply passionate about, and a job in finance that I had to forcibly drag myself to everyday. The mental health work was all voluntary so I couldn’t leave my job for that, and the chocolate was great but it didn’t bring me the feeling of purpose like the mental health work did. What was I to do?
Suddenly everything came together and made sense. I could explore my love of creating and passion for food with the chocolate, and use its profits to support the work in mental health that I felt deeply connected to and driven by. I realised that yes I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but any business I owned had to have a purpose beyond just making money. It was a revelation!
I had spent so long thinking about what it might be like to feel happier and confident enough to follow my dreams. And whilst life is never perfect, mine is certainly feeling much dreamier than it’s ever been before. I guess Granpa Jo was right, sometimes what you imagine can come true.
Charlie - The Well Bean Co
So excited that The Well Bean Company will be at Vevolution Festival next month!
Are you ready for the UK's leading plant-powered positive change festival? On Saturday 16th of November, join us at Vevolution Festival 2019 for one action-packed day of inspiring talks, thought-provoking panels, engaging workshops, and some of the best vegan food in the country! We’ll be at the iconic British Film Institute (BFI) for the second year, on London’s picturesque Southbank.