Louis Barnett’s story

Louis Barnett is one of Britain’s most successful chocolatiers. His tasty chocolate bars are sold in nine countries and counting, and they’re also helping raise money to protect endangered animal species around the world.

By any measure, Louis’ story is amazing. He started his company, Chokolit Ltd., when he was just 12 years old and has built it into a thriving global venture in just seven years.

But his success is even more inspiring because Louis has dyspraxia and dyslexia.

Louis was bullied and struggled for years in school. When he was 11, Louis’s parents decided to homeschool him, and they found a tutor who specialized in working with children with disabilities like his. In that environment, Louis was able to follow his passions and discover his talents, rather than constantly being reminded of what he couldn’t do.

“For anyone with a learning disability, it’s essential to find out the way that you learn and not to forget that in education there are just options,” Louis said. “A lot of people with learning disabilities come up to me and say, ‘I’m so worried about my schoolwork and I’m worried about university and I’m worried about my career.’

“Discover how you learn and use it to your advantage,” he said. “Yes, there are times in a dyspraxic’s life where simple things are going to be harder. You cannot lose sight that you are better at things that most people aren’t.”
After his parents took him out of traditional schools, Louis began exploring his interests. Two of them – animals and food – would eventually align in a most unusual way.

Soon after leaving school, Louis began working at a falconry center, where he learned how to care for and train owls and other large birds. Around the same time, Louis was learning his way around the kitchen, cooking with his mom and whipping up his own recipes. He discovered he had a talent for both.

The life-changing moment came when Louis’s aunt asked him to bake a chocolate cake for her 50th birthday. The very next day, he was browsing at a store next to the falconry center and found a book on Belgian chocolate. He used a recipe he found there to make his aunt’s cake, and it was a hit. Soon, other friends and family asked Louis to bake for them, and then came orders from local bakeries and restaurants.

At age 12, he founded Chokolit, initially running the business from his parent’s garage. Louis, who says his dyspraxia gives him a unique outlook and approach to problem-solving, came up with the idea of packaging his candies in edible chocolate boxes.

“I was good at coming up with new ideas that nobody had ever thought of,” he said.
That innovation got him noticed by the British supermarket chain Waitrose, who started stocking the chocolate confections when Louis was just 13. Within two years, Louis opened a factory in his hometown and was supplying several British retailers with luxury chocolates. He also became youngest person to complete training and become accredited as a chocolatier at the prestigious Callebaut Chocolate Academy.

As he continued his culinary education, Louis learned that palm oil, which is a main ingredient in many foods, including chocolate bars, is endangering rainforests and animal habitats around the world. To harvest the oil, producers must harvest large areas of rainforest, destroying the habitats of orangutans and other animals and forcing them onto the endangered species list.

Louis vowed never to use palm oil in his chocolates, and he’s become an outspoken conservationist and activist seeking to eradicate the use of palm oil. He’s even created a line of chocolate bars, called “Biting Back” to raise awareness of this issue, marrying his two passions – animals and food. Chokolit donates a portion of each sale to conservation organizations.
So often, when someone is first diagnosed with dyspraxia, the tendency is to focus on the limitations and the difficulties that come with having this disorder. But Louis’s story illustrates that dyspraxia doesn’t have to limit you or your child. People with dyspraxia achieve amazing things, and they can be quite successful, even if they’ve struggled in school. Dyspraxia has given Louis a unique approach to learning and problem-solving. Certainly, there are things he can’t do as well as other people. But he excels in other areas.

We all have that excellence in us. We just have to find it.

“I realized my potential early in life,” Louis admits. “Sometimes, that doesn’t come to you for years. You just have to experiment. You pretty much have to try everything. However unsuccessful you have been in things in the past, however certain things have knocked your confidence, keep searching. Because when you do find what it is that really sets your flame and really ignites that fire within you, it makes up for it all. When you do finally find your passion, it makes up for it all.”