Louise Holmes: Profile

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LOUISE Holmes was not initially enamoured by the idea of selling ice cream.

She had decided to join her husband Jeremy in helping him to run the family farm at Denby Dale after having been made redundant from her job at training company A4e.

“I was feeling the pressure of having a job that had demanding hours and having a young family”, said Louise.

“I was pregnant with our second child so it fitted what was happening in our life.”

The couple soon started looking at ways they could diversify their milk processing business.

A surplus of cream at the time was being sucked up and taken away by a tanker to be made into other products.

“Jeremy went on an ice-cream making course and came back and announced he thought it was a good idea”, said Louise.

“I thought it was bonkers when he said I think we should do this.

“The farm is hard work on its own and having two young kids I couldn’t see how we were going to manage it all.”

But the couple decided to give it a shot and before they knew it they were selling ice cream from the farm gates.

Seven years on and Yummy Yorkshire, as the ice cream business is known, now produces 35,500 litres of ice cream a year, supplying farm shops, restaurants and visitor attractions such as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

The ice cream is made using the milk from the farm’s own 150-strong Holstein herd.

Yummy Yorkshire makes up 60 per cent of the Holmes’ overall revenues and is on track for more growth.

For Louise, beginning work on the farm marked a complete career change.

She had spent her working life until that point in the corporate world after an initial struggle to get a job when she finished university in the early 1990s.

“When I graduated (in geography) we were in a recession and any job that had any relation to my degree... there was just nothing available.”

Louise, who grew up in Knaresborough, ended up getting a job with British Coal Enterprise, helping redundant miners to find alternative employment.

Following the buy-out of BCE by Capita Group she progressed to national operations manager, managing the UK outplacement activity including major clients such as Rolls-Royce, Siemens and Xerox.

Then, in 2003, following redundancy, she took on a role with A4e in Sheffield in divisional restructure, managing a multi-million pound contract for SureStart, a Government initiative, which involved devising and rolling out national training for childcarers and nurseries across the UK involving 740 training courses in nine months.

She worked there until 2005 when she was made redundant.

Today, in her role at Yummy Yorkshire Louise is responsible for ice cream production and the development of new flavours as well as marketing, PR and administrative work for the company.

It is a far cry from her former working life. At that time she would never have imagined herself making ice cream years down the line. But would she swap it for a life back in the office?

“No”, says Louise. “I love creating new flavours. I love going upstairs, having the ice cream machine to myself and coming up with new flavours.”

In fact, it was one of her more unconventional creations that first put Yummy Yorkshire on the map.

‘Lou’s Liquorice’ flavour ice cream won a top award at the Great Taste Awards in 2008, soon after Yummy Yorkshire launched.

“Suddenly people started to recognise us and I remember having calls from London and all over the place for liquorice ice cream”, said Louise.

As demand grew, the pair launched an ice cream parlour, which they extended and refurbished a couple of years ago, with the help of a government grant.

A year ago, they stopped bottling milk on the farm - though the cows are still milked there. That was a big, big decision for us”, said Louise.

“We got to that point where it wasn’t financially viable anymore. It’s a very labour intensive job. Equipment was getting old.

“We were fortunate in that we had created another business with Yummy Yorkshire and that was taking off.”

Today, the couple is helped by a small team and the annual turnover of Yummy Yorkshire has reached around £480,000.

But they are keen to continue diversifying the business.

Falconry days have been held at the farm and a fun fair event is planned for over the Easter weekend. There are also plans for a fire-walking event in the future.

Louise’s work in helping to turn the farm into a visitor attraction recently won her the accolade of Woman in Tourism of the Year at the 2014 Network She Foundation International Women’s Day Awards.

She said: It’s such an honour to have received this award and it’s testament to how far we have come from selling our ice cream from the farm gate to becoming a visitor attraction in our own right.”