Harry Specters wins Legal & General’s innovative Grow at The Grafton initiative

LGIM Real Assets (Legal & General) has announced that Harry Specters has been named the inaugural winner of Cambridge-based shopping centre, The Grafton’s, innovative Grow at The Grafton competition. The Entrepreneurship initiative, which launched earlier this year, aims to provide small business owners and local entrepreneurs with the opportunity to secure retail space at The Grafton following its £28.5m redevelopment in 2018.

Grow at The Grafton represents the latest step by owner Legal & General to respond to the evolution of the retail market and work in partnership with local retailers to deliver a more compelling shopping experience. Grow at The Grafton attracted 76 applications with selected business concepts pitched to Tom Williams, Fund Manager at Legal & General, Centre Manager, John O’Shea, and Simon Ambrose, the 2007 winner of The Apprentice.

Winner of the competition, Harry Specters, was established in 2011 to create a wide-ranging quality chocolate selection as well as providing employment and work experience for individuals with autism. The company donates 60p of every £1 of profit towards furthering the business’ social aims and opportunities for the personal development of its employees. The local social enterprise, which has won 29 industry awards in five years for its handcrafted luxury chocolates, has signed an initial 12-month lease at the Cambridge shopping centre and will begin trading in late Autumn. The fit-out of its unit will begin in September.

Runner up, ItsSo Travel, a locally-based travel expert which works with over 450 leading holiday companies and tour operators, has also signed a 12-month lease.

Tom Williams, Fund Manager at LGIM Real Assets said: “Grow at The Grafton is a unique initiative which demonstrates just one way we can continue to innovate within the retail sector, supporting local businesses and rejuvenating the shopping experience. We had a lot of excellent submissions for the competition, but the outstanding quality of Harry Specters’ application caught our attention immediately. Legal & General and The Grafton are passionate and committed to supporting our community and to have the opportunity to work with a local company so dedicated to making a difference to the lives of those with autism, was something we could not afford to miss”

Mona Shah, founder and managing director at Harry Specters, said: “We are absolutely thrilled and very excited to have won the Grow at The Grafton initiative. We are grateful to The Grafton for giving us this unique opportunity to be able to offer our award-winning chocolates to our customers through a retail outlet. Even more exciting is that our customers will be able to join us in our journey to make a direct difference to our young autistic employees through employment and free training opportunities at Harry Specters.”

Paul Welling, a travel designer at ItsSo Travel said: “We are proud and privileged to have been part of the Grow at The Grafton initiative and to have been chosen as runner-up is an amazing opportunity. The Grow at The Grafton team share our vision for the future of high-street travel agents as we aim to create an inspirational, luxurious and dynamic space in which our customers can book their dream holidays. We are delighted that, in addition to our shop in St Ives, we are now opening in the heart of Cambridge.”

Simon Ambrose, 2007 winner of the Apprentice, said: “Grow at The Grafton is an innovative concept and I’m pleased that I had the opportunity to be part of the judging process in its inaugural year. All the businesses who applied were of high-quality and the level of entrepreneurship presented was fantastic. I would like to congratulate Harry Specters and ItsSo Travel on securing 12-month leases at the shopping centre. Independent retail continues to be important in the industry and its welcoming to see The Grafton continuing to embrace that and provide a quality localised offering to its community.”