Julia Hemmingway

Julia Hemmingway

Julia Hemingway

Studied Springboard funded Level 9 Certificate in Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship  

Through this programme, working with other students and listening to the fantastic business men and women - our lecturers, I have learnt the importance of conversation, sharing ideas and merging interests. I never really want this programme to end

Can you share your career path to date? 

A Graduate of Leiths School of Food and Wine in London, I have been a professional chef for over 30 years. I have worked in restaurants such as the French House in Soho, London, I was a private chef for Ronnie Wood (Rolling Stones) and have had many amazing opportunities throughout my career. However, I always dreamed of owning my own food business and in 2016 decided to embark on the Certificate in Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship to see if I could make that dream a reality.  The course gave me the confidence to take the next step in setting up my business. The network we formed as a group, together with the inspiration of the course mentors and guest lecturers was invaluable to me. I took Julia’s Lobster Truck out for the first time in May 2017 and have gone from strength to strength since then. I have my regular customers and lots of tourists every weekend. I meet people from all over the world that visit me on the west coast of Clare.  Always a lover of festivals, I am now a regular at a number of festivals throughout the year. I was delighted to appear on RTE’s Irish Food Trails with Neven Maguire, Paul Flynn’s Food Truck Favourites, Battle of the Food Trucks and More 4’s Coast and Country  which has been a fantastic experience and created invaluable publicity for my business. Food has a unique way of connecting people and I love that I get to experience that magic every day in my business.   

What does your current role involve? 

Currently I have my own Food Truck Business “Julia’s Lobster Truck) selling fresh seafood based in North Clare. Our produce is locally sourced and we work with a devoted team of suppliers of fantastic ingredients from both land and sea. We trade weekly at local venues in Bell Harbour and Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare and select festivals around Ireland.  

What motivated you to start studying?  

I wanted to start my own food business but lacked some of the skills and confidence to do so. When I saw the course advertised, I thought it would be a great way to learn from people in the industry. The part time flexible learning environment appealed to me as I was also working. There was also funding available for the course which was a huge positive.  

Why did you choose this course from ATU? 

The course appealed to me because it offered a flexible learning environment, and it involved both academics and local food entrepreneurs. The course was funded which removed the worry of affordability. I love connecting and learning from people and this course meant that I could learn from those in the industry – those that had already gone through some of the challenges of setting up a food business and overcame them. I wanted to do a course that would give me the practical skills I need to set up a business. I wanted to know how to complete a business plan that would help me source funding for the business set up and wanted to know how to pitch my business concept. I spoke to the course coordinator who took me through the different modules, learnings and what I could expect from the course. The course is unique because there are so many food entrepreneurs involved in the delivery of it, that really appealed to me.  I could see how valuable the course could be for me, and it certainly was. 

How did you find the process of studying online? What elements did you find helpful? Were there elements you found challenging?  

N/A the course was classroom based but it was part time 

How did you balance work and study? 

Balancing work and study can be difficult, and it was at certain stages. However, the course team are very approachable and extremely supportive. If I was having any difficulty or feeling overwhelmed I reached out to the team for support. Once you keep communication channels open it is a lot easier to balance everything. There needs to be a support network, that’s important for any student. As a class and peers, we also supported each other which was beneficial to all of us.  

Did this course provide any unexpected benefits to your career? 

The course gave me confidence to believe in my business idea, it made me realise that it was an opportunity within reach. The support from the course coordinators even after the course completed was fantastic. They kept us connected as a group and have been key in developing our network. Knowing that support is there means that I can reach out at any stage for guidance or to troubleshoot, that has been amazing for me.  I have also been involved in numerous food and training events organised by the course coordinators since completing the course which has grown my network and empowered me at different stage of my career. I don't think I could have reached this point in my career without the course and all the incredible information, confidence building and help that was provided. 

Did you find that the elements you were studying had practical relevance in your day-to-day role?  

Yes, there were a number of elements that I studied that had practical relevance in my business. Being honest as it was such a practical course, I use most of the learnings to develop my business on a daily basis. I really enjoyed gaining an understanding of the design thinking process and customer discovery. Implementing these processes has enabled me to grow my business always keeping the customer and their needs at its core. The financial and business planning and pitching skills were also invaluable to me. They enabled me to develop a business plan that I could present to investors to secure funding to start my business. I successfully secured that funding in early 2017 and was able to launch my food truck business in May 2017, which was a surreal moment for me. 

What were the key skills you took away from your time studying at ATU? 

I gained so many skills as part of this course. It provided me with the interpersonal and business skills that enabled me to take my business from concept stage to completion. I learned to nurture my entrepreneurial mindset and gained practical business and financial planning skills. I also increased my communication skills. I am more confident taking part in public speaking, presenting, and more recently engaging with customers and social media followers online. What is unique about this course is the fact that you have to put theory into practise throughout the course. You are constantly implementing your learnings, adapting your thinking and developing your business concept. The module on Creative thinking and Opportunity provides you with the skills to look at your business from other perspectives and different routes to market. I am grateful for the course especially the mentorship and guidance from both the academic team and the food entrepreneurs.  

Learn more about the Certificate in Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship