Good work: meet Charlie from Well Bean Co
The Royal Docks has its own Charlie and the chocolate factory. Meet Charlie Claydon from Well Bean Co, the local chocolate company who wants to spread health and happiness.
Based out of RAW Labs in Royal Albert Wharf, there’s a lot more to this factory than delicious bars of confection. Instead, Charlie’s magic comes from the company’s ethos. As our Good Work series explores how businesses and charities across the Royal Docks are spearheading ethical initiatives, we discover a company with mental health and wellbeing at its core.
The Well Bean Co isn’t just about profit, I needed to do something that really helped people. It feels nice to be giving our time.
Charlie Claydon, Well Bean Co
How did the Well Bean Co begin?
From a very young age I suffered with anxiety and depression. In my early twenties, someone spotted that I wasn’t really in a good place. Getting help was the start of the Well Bean Co journey.
I got diagnosed and started therapy but it didn’t bring around the changes that I wanted to see. At my core, I’m a fixer and a maker. I used to take broken video recorders and Walkmans apart, and clean the insides. When I was diagnosed, I became my own project, really. Instead of fixing machines, I began fixing myself.
And how did that lead to the Well Bean Co?
I ended up on a completely plant-based diet and I had the challenge of recreating the things I missed. I really missed Galaxy chocolate; it’s so creamy and indulgent. I decided to attempt to make a version of it out of plants. I started in a shed in my back garden and two years after I started playing with chocolate, I finally had a bar that tasted like Galaxy.
I was working in finance at the time and constantly testing chocolate on people. They really pushed me to make something of this product that I had created. Laura Kendrew joined me in February 2018 and she’s been on this whole journey with me. We go through the stress and joy of it all together.
Tell us more about the charity work you do through the Well Bean Co.
We’ve realised that just giving money to a charity isn’t enough for us, we want to be more hands on. We work with Shaw Trust and One Housing, putting on chocolate workshops for people with mental health needs. We work with homeless people and those who are a bit isolated.
We recently teamed up with Ruby Wax and The Kindness Offensive, giving away free chocolate. Random acts of kindness are a really important thing to do at this time of year. This week, we’re working with Bright Futures UK, going to a cancer ward and spending some time with kids, working with chocolate. The workshops can be difficult but you come away feeling so energised. Next year I want to be working more with those struggling with loneliness and mental health.
The Well Bean Co isn’t just about profit, I needed to do something that really helped people. It feels nice to be giving our time. It means more to us to really be involved in it.
How did you come to be in the Royal Docks?
When I finished making my chocolate in my shed, I knew I had to find a proper space to produce it. I’ve lived in east London for eights years now so I reached out to Bow Arts. Joss Taylor is amazing and he got back to me about the development in the Royal Docks. It was empty at the time and they asked me to do a workshop. I fell in love with the development and the area.
What initiatives would you like to see in the area?
I’d love to see more community projects around food and mental health. In the most deprived areas, access to food isn’t great. When you have an area that’s less well off, you have more mental health problems. You have to get your base right, that’s your food, that’s your fuel.
We’re really lucky in the UK — and particularly London — you can travel around the world just through the cuisine. There’s a huge opportunity for the Royal Docks to develop it’s F&B offer. With so many beautiful cultures in the area, the idea of bringing all that together in food is just so exciting.
Well Bean Co is bean to bar. What does that mean?
It’s working with the product from the start. There’s a difference between a chocolatier and chocolate maker — chocolatiers work with readymade chocolate; we source the beans directly from farmers.
We roast the beans and make our chocolate from scratch, which means we’re able to have more control over the product. We choose to work with farmers who are using the land properly and we know the farmers are getting a good price for their produce.
Pop in to RAW Labs to taste a slice of Charlie’s chocolate, or watch this space for Well Bean Co’s online shop. Photo at top: Charlie at artist Enni-Kukka Tuomala’s Campaign for Empathy rally, taken by Tian Khee Siong.
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