Thursday, January 6 2022

An inspiring young man with autism started a thriving chocolate business during Covid’s stay-at-home orders and discovered the recipe for overcoming the lockdown blues.

Richard Habelrih, 25, makes 300 to 400 chocolate “freckles” a day from his family home in Maroubra to meet orders flowing in from all over Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Mr Habelrih found work as a public speaker opening up about the bullying he suffered in school and raising awareness about autism before the lockdown.

But in 2020, the work dried up.

Richard Habelrih, who couldn’t find work in large retail chains, has become an educator, speaker and now chocolate maker. His advice to people with confinement blues is to ‘do something you love’

Richard Habelrih and his sister Emily work on online orders for Richard's thriving chocolate business

Richard Habelrih and his sister Emily work on online orders for Richard’s thriving chocolate business

“He hates not having something to do, it gets him down,” his mother Randa told Daily Mail Australia.

“So when the lockdown took place and the speaking engagements were canceled, he started pacing, he was in distress. He said “I want to start a business”.

Mr Habelrih made chocolates to raise funds so that a disabled child could get an electric scooter in 2019 and decided to go back to that.

“I would tell people to stay safe, to be careful, but don’t stop and do nothing,” he said.

“Find something you love to do and do it. “

Richard Habelih (right) with his mother Randa (left) during one of his speeches

Richard Habelih (right) with his mother Randa (left) during one of his speeches

Mr Habelrih tells his TikTok subscribers what the plans are for the lockdown.

He decided to have his own chocolate

Mr Habelrih tells his TikTok subscribers what the plans are for the lockdown. He decided to have his own chocolate “freckles” distributed from home.

Ms. Habelrih, who is marketing for Autism Companions, but has been mobilized to help chocolate production, says chocolate orders are pouring in.

“Honestly, we thought we had a few orders, but we have so many that we’re up until midnight,” Ms. Habelrih said.

“Yesterday we had thousands of orders and the phone was ringing all night, there are probably more.”

His sister Emily, 30, a clinical psychologist, also helps make and package the chocolate.

Mr. Habelrih makes sure that each “freckle face” chocolate is wrapped with a handwritten message.

Making chocolate is the last step in a remarkable journey for a young man who has become a role model for people with autism who feel abandoned by society.

“He was depressed when he left school, he lost his routine,” Ms. Habelrih said.

“He couldn’t find a job, we tried everywhere, and places that hire, like Coles and Woolworths, their story was ‘we’ve filled our quota.’

“So our children end up at the bottom of the heap. “

When she wrote a book about her experiences, Richard stood up to speak – and he brought the house down.

“Richard has an intellectual disability so he doesn’t speak eloquently, but the audience absolutely love him. His message is genuine and he speaks of kindness and acceptance. ‘

She said Richard was “severely bullied” at school “and it still happens with other autistic children.”

“We get emails from parents all the time. People aren’t mean by nature, they just don’t know how to interact with children on the spectrum.

Richard Habelrih overcame schoolyard bullying because of his autism to become a <a class=public speaker in his twenties” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%”/>

Richard Habelrih overcame schoolyard bullying because of his autism to become a public speaker in his twenties

Mr. Habelrih regularly talks to <a class=school students about autism and how to talk to children with autism” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%”/>

Mr. Habelrih regularly talks to school students about autism and how to talk to children with autism

“Richard advocates for himself and his peers and is speaking across Australia now. He paid premiums for it.

“He’s not going to have a traditional 9-5 career, but he’s made his way through and he’s rolling with the punches.”

He has previously done paid work as a teaching assistant at Randwick, directed a puppet show, wrote and did voiceover work for his own animated show, and voiced NDIS videos.

He also finds time to post videos on his popular TikTok channel, which has 140,000 likes.

Now he can add running an online business to his impressive resume.

“Anyone on the phone says, ‘I have a business now.’ You should see the smile on her face, ”Ms. Habelrih says.

“I have moms emailing me saying ‘Richard gave us hope that we can see that our child can have a decent future.

“He’s about to help another 22-year-old autistic man start his own online business.”


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