Less than a year since they launched their business, a Ripon husband and wife team are already proving to be trailblazers in the world of chocolate and confectionery.
Hannah and Lee Rushforth are passionate about shopping local and supporting Ripon’s independent businesses - an ethos that they’ve placed firmly at the heart of Bear and Mouse, their handmade chocolate company that’s continuing to grow from strength strength.
Since their official launch in April last year, Bear and Mouse have attracted a lot of industry attention, including being shortlisted for two of their products in the Deliciouslyorkshire Taste Awards. And the name of the business itself couldn’t be closer to home...
Hannah, who was an events manager at Swinton Park for nearly 10 years, now a mum to two boys, said: “The business is named after our boys - Edward has always been known as Edward bear, and Henry, well, he started squeaking like a mouse at two days old, and got the nickname mouse. It’s a year later and he still does.
"Everything is handmade by just Lee and I. Lee, who is a head chef, makes all the chocolate himself, and I do everything else. Ripon is our home, and we couldn’t think of a better place to run the business. We are currently on the hunt for new premises to work from as the business is growing so quickly. The people of Ripon have been so supportive of us and we can’t thank them enough.”
Just in Ripon alone, Bear and Mouse products are stocked in Fig and Wlliow, Green Duck Deli and Floral Pride - along with places all over Yorkshire, including Fodder. Their chocolate has also reached as far as London, where it’s stocked at Two Temple Place - one of the city’s hidden architectural gems.
Bear and Mouse was one of the first chocolate businesses in the Ripon area to introduce ruby chocolate into its stock, too - Hannah and Lee are always looking to develop their customer experience and range of products.
Hannah said: “We were motivated to create something amazing locally - with real ingredients, not just flavourings. We were tired of eating chocolate that was supposed to have a flavour and actually didn’t taste of what it was supposed to. Being eco-friendly is highly important to us, which is why all of our packaging is eco friendly, recyclable, biodegradable or compostable. We want to show that you can still have an amazing product and be conscious of the environment at the same time.”
Hannah and Lee said they will always be proud to be a Ripon company through every success and bit of recognition that Bear and Mouse gets. They said independent businesses are an important part of the city’s character and identity.
Hannah said: “Independent businesses are the future, the high street will be full of independents soon. Ripon is a gem, and in quite a unique situation really - it’s too small to attract many big high street names, especially when they can’t even stay in local bigger places, but we are big enough, with enough attractions, that there is still good trade.
“The community is eager to support our lovely city, they just need to ensure that they continue to do so. Social media is huge, and the best platform for marketing at the moment - businesses need to actively use it in a positive way, not only for their own business, but to promote Ripon too.”