MOVING from a profession in the financial services industry to running your own chocolate business might not seem the most obvious career path but for nut allergy sufferer Claire Hicklin it opened up a whole new opportunity in a niche market.

Claire runs Nut Free Chox, a York-based chocolate manufacturer specialist in nut-free treats.

Living in York with her husband and seven-year-old son William, Mrs Hicklin spent most of her professional life within the financial services industry, before taking up the offer of voluntary redundancy while on maternity leave.

After deciding to do something completely different she became the director of Operations for a medical supply business, a move which describes as being a "steep learning curve and very different being at the sharp end of a business".

After gaining confidence Mrs Hicklin decided to strike out on her own after noticing a gap in the market for nut free chocolate.

She said: "I've always loved chocolate. From as far back as I can remember it has played a delightful part in my life. Along with that delight was frustration.

"Every single birthday and Christmas I would receive beautiful chocolate selection boxes that I was desperate to eat immediately, but, of course, cross-contamination was too large a risk and these treats were invariably given away to others.

"This has been a theme throughout all of my adult life.

"Then the light bulb moment came: what about other sufferers like myself; what about their families and children, and what about businesses giving corporate gifts: were they putting people at risk by giving clients and employees products that could contain nuts?

"So Nut Free Chox was born in our nut free kitchen with our nut free recipes."

What job would you like to have other than your own and why?

"I'm not sure there is a better job than having a chocolate factory! Though, when I was younger I wanted to be a forensic scientist, too much Patricia Cornwell I think!"

Greatest Achievement?

"My greatest achievement was my ability to persuade my wonderful husband to marry me!"

What makes you most angry?

"The continued lack of understanding in the food industry that the blanket statement "everything may contain traces of...." is, in 2016, frankly not acceptable, they can do better, and should."

Biggest mistake?

"I've made a lot of small mistakes along the way, the ones where you kick yourself, brush yourself off and learn from it. Someone once said mistakes are the stepping stones to success - so I'll borrow that."

What do you need to make life complete?

"The health to be able to watch my son, William, grow and live a long, happy, healthy and productive life. "

Why do you make a difference?

"In the UK, while the scale of sufferers is huge, sufferers of nut allergies and their parents/friends are a close knit group, mainly because so few people offer a nut safe alternative so when we find one we treasure it.

"I think one piece of feedback at Christmas summed it up for me "Claire, I cry as I write the email, my 18 year old daughter has just opened her Christmas box of chocolates, the very first selection box of her life because of her allergy, her face crumbled, but with sheer happiness. I cannot ever thank you enough for giving her that joy".


"Live, laugh, love"