A CHOCOLATIER and her daughter have launched a new drinks brand in a bid to create jobs for people seeking a fresh start in life.

Linda and Mariah Barrie founded Chocolate & Co after two close friends died from accidental overdoses.

The not-for-profit venture will provide sustained employment and support for offenders and people struggling with addiction.

It draws on Linda’s skills in chocolate production through her York business, Choc Affair, and Mariah’s experience in mental well-being through working with The Island, a York charity which provides positive mentoring to vulnerable children.

“It’s a very simple model of a mobile unit from which we serve a range of amazing hot chocolates which we prepare in the traditional Colombian way, using an Orleta jug and a molinillo wooden whisk, over a gas flame,” said Linda.

“We are looking for events to attend, and have just done two weeks at York St John’s welcome week as well as Malton Food market. We’ve just had a coffee machine fitted so we’re currently learning about the complex art of Barista coffees!

“Our aim is to offer employment to two people for up to a 15-month period, as they transition to something else. We’re currently ironing out the creases and liaising with external agencies about them putting people forward for our first two positions.”

Linda said that for 12 years Choc Affair had actively employed people who would ordinarily struggle to find work, due to a history of offending or addiction.

“You could see the difference being part of a small team made to them, where they had a purpose to their day, and were working within a nurturing environment. Their self esteem was growing and they had periods of time where they felt really positive about themselves and optimistic for what the future held.

“Sadly, during Covid we lost two of our friends, both to accidental overdoses.”

Choc Affair reduced its team due to safe socially-distanced work practices, bringing an end to their inclusive employment initiative, until they thought up the mobile unit idea. They aim to launch the product online in the new year and are in talks with local agencies about the employment opportunity.

“It’s a really exciting time, and something we’re both personally committed to due to losing our friends. We’ve had so much support and encouragement from the agencies, and groups in York, who are doing some fantastic work in this area.”

Linda added: “Our inclusiveness as an employer has always been a really important part of who we are as a company, and we are delighted to be finally able to welcome our friends and learners from the Blueberry Academy back, which has always brought great emotional benefits to us as a team, as well as to the Blueberry learners - the blessings really do go both ways.”