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Inspirational Alumni: Wajeeha the Chocolatier

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When listing dream jobs, chocolatier will never be far from the top. But unlike the route to becoming a doctor or a lawyer, the path to Wonka-like success is perhaps not totally clear. 

Wajeeha Husain graduated from Northumbria in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science and went on to work in the automotive industry for the next eight years. Giving that up to become a chocolate-maker may seem like a bit of a sharp left turn in a pretty straight career trajectory but after speaking to Wajeeha, it begins to make a little more sense. 

Wajeeha Chocolateeha alumni

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

“The idea for Chocolateeha stemmed from my passion and my childhood. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this but, my problem was, I wanted to eat chocolate every day.” 

This is a plight most people can sympathise with but as Wajeeha goes on to say, it’s not the healthiest habit. “My grandparents on both sides had diabetes and they passed away. So, I was brought up in an environment where eating too much sugar was discouraged.” But instead of giving up on her sweet tooth, Wajeeha decided to do something about it.

“When I looked at the trends and the market data it was really interesting because, since the Sugar Tax, there has actually been very little shift in terms of consumers’ mindsets,” she tells us, speaking from her base in Newcastle upon Tyne. “It shows that people still want to treat themselves, but I’ve found that if you give them better alternatives, they tend to prefer them.”

During our conversation, Wajeeha’s future-thinking and entrepreneurial spirit shines through. She’s clearly passionate but what gave her the drive to take on tomorrow? Her answer is clear: “When I was doing my research, I found out that chocolate is one of the main contributing factors to obesity in this country. My big picture is that I want to provide people with a delicious low fat, low sugar option and increase the amount of dark chocolate people eat in the UK.” 

Although very much a visionary, she acknowledges the reality, adding, “That dream involves a lot of education and my chocolate being in every local shop and every major supermarket in the country. That’s the ten-year vision.”

Alumni Wajeeha

As anyone who has tried it will know, when launching a small business, branding is everything. Wajeeha is a disruptor in an industry dominated by behemoths like Cadbury and Nestle, so making her one voice heard amidst the din is a challenge. “The biggest thing that I have is my story. There are other companies that are doing similar things but none of them have a relatable story and that’s the way I’ve been making sales - through who I am as a person.” 

Wajeeha’s ambitions extend out of the realms of pure business. When asked about her life goals, she speaks of being a leader, providing an example and driving social change through her work.

My personal goal is to inspire girls who are in my situation. My background is Pakistani and so many Asian girls grow up with the idea that you have to be a doctor or a dentist, get married before you’re 30 and then immediately start having children. My ambition is to inspire girls, not just Asian girls, and show them that it’s ok to start a business later in your life

She adds, “It’s just about being happy in what you do.” 

Although inspiring girls and impacting society in the UK is a priority, some of her goals are global and moving further into the future. “There’s so much that happens with cocoa production that isn’t necessarily ethical and eventually down the line I want to have my own farm. And I want to have it in Pakistan - there’s never been a farm built there and it’s mainly because no one wants to invest in the economy of Pakistan because of how its perceived. But that’s where I was born, and I want to be able to go back there and create jobs and make sure people are treated fairly.”

So, what was it about Northumbria University that fostered this entrepreneurial spirit and sparked a desire to change the world? “I think the best thing I learned at Northumbria was to try everything and not give up. They give you so much to test out and it put me in the habit of sampling lots of different things to find out what I was good at or that worked best for me.” Wajeeha tells us how her time there shaped her and about her positive experiences. 

However, Northumbria University’s influence didn’t end there. The university is ranked first in the UK for graduate start-ups and was instrumental in helping Wajeeha achieve her vision. Chocolateeha benefitted from the expertise that has helped to develop over 200 companies since 2012, which have created a total of 1,089 jobs and a combined turnover of £80.3 million. 

Eight years after graduating, what advice would she give to current students at Northumbria? “I would just say get involved. The university is amazing at providing support. For instance, when I applied to internships at Nissan, they had workshops to provide help and there is always someone on hand to give you all the support you need.” She pauses for a second and then says, with a smile in her voice, “At Northumbria, you’ll never ever feel like you’re alone.”

 

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