Amelia’s story starts fourteen years ago following the sudden death of her brother, just four days before his 16th birthday.
Two weeks later, her world came crashing down further when she herself was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, an hereditary heart disease the family didn’t know they possessed. Aged only 14, Amelia was told that she needed a heart transplant to live.
Whilst her peers started experimenting with blusher and boys, Amelia became more acquainted with hospital visits than hair dye. Teenage life was put on hold as the long journey from Scarborough to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children became her reality. Fortunately, following three false calls, a donor was found for Amelia in August 2002 and, at the age of fifteen, she received a heart transplant: the gift of life.
Twelve years later, I am sat with Amelia, who is now 27, in her chocolate workshop in Scarborough. Amelia has always had a sweet tooth, but didn’t consider confectionary and chocolate as a career option until her Grandfather visited Hutton-le-Hole Chocolate Factory and found they had an opening for an apprentice. Inspired, and needing something to focus on following her operation, Amelia enrolled on a one year catering course, before taking up the apprenticeship. There followed a very happy few years but, on achieving Master Chocolatier status, she decided to try out a few other career options. Finding them wanting, Amelia felt it was time to take matters into her own hands and go back to chocolate. And so, in October 2013, she opened up her own store, Amelia’s Chocolate, on Victoria Road in Scarborough.
“Someone once said to me – what would you rather be? Happy and have no money, or unhappy and have money? After everything my family and I have been through, happiness trumps all.”
Whilst Amelia’s transplant will always be a part of her story, it does not define her. On the contrary, when I asked Amelia what motivates her she responded, “I love it when a customer comes in with a bit of a challenge”. This zest was evident when she told me about the chocolate fish and chip favours she made for the Scarborough Business Awards last year (how great do they sound?). My mouth watering at the prospect, I was excited to learn more about Amelia’s chocolate creations: marshmallow lollies with white chocolate swirls, milk chocolate and orange bars, and the winner of a gold star in the Great Taste Awards 2013, the milk chocolate peppermint crisps (just to name a few!). And then there is one of her most innovative creations – and unsurprisingly one of the best sellers – chocolate letters, which people buy in varying quantities for all sorts of occasions.
But Amelia doesn’t just rely on her chocolate making skills. One of the fundamental offerings of the Amelia’s Chocolate experience are her workshops, which take place all year round for both children and adults. From Mother’s Day truffle making and Hen Party packages, to children’s chocolate pizza parties, it’s surprising that Amelia has time to sit down! Not to mention all her plans for the future, which include expanding the premises as well as further enriching her expertise as a chocolatier.
“I just have a love for chocolate and a love for the job – it’s all I want to do.”
Whilst chocolate plays a big part in Amelia’s life, she remains unwaveringly grateful for all Great Ormond Street have done for her and her family. Following her recovery, Amelia established ‘Amelia’s Campaign’, setting herself a target of raising £10,000 to signify ten years since her heart transplant. In fact, she raised just short of a significant £18,000 for the British Heart Foundation and Live Life Give Life. Fundraising initiatives included speed dating down the Old Vic, quiz nights, raffles and coffee mornings, and Amelia is already considering marking the 15th anniversary of her transplant in 2017 – such a trailblazer!
Somehow, this superwoman also finds time to be part of the Girl Guide movement – although she confesses that since opening the shop, she has had to focus on the business and cut back on her time spent at St Johns Guides, Scarborough. Despite this, her commitment to them is evident, and she describes in depth what a massive support they were during her transplant and recovery, from picking her up in her wheelchair to jetting her off to Costa Rica. In return, as part of Amelia’s Campaign, she came up with a heart transplant related ‘challenge badge’ for the Girl Guides. Challenges range from biscuit decorating in the shape of a heart to drawing round the body and locating vital organs.
Though Amelia may not believe it herself, she is a role model for so many, and thus I found it appropriate to ask what advice she would give to other young women also fighting illness or hardship. Straight away she said, “Don’t give up – definitely not!”, before adding, “Pursue your dream. Only you can make it happen. Work hard and eventually you will achieve it.”
It was utterly refreshing to meet someone like Amelia, who was able to discuss her remarkable story with such ease. She is not only an inspiration, but also a role model for young women everywhere; a symbol of someone who has fought back undeterred to focus on what she loves most, chocolate.