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Nicole Williamson

Nicole Williamson
Course studied:
Media and History

We all scream for ice cream

While anyone with Staffordshire connections knows it’s hard to beat a good oatcake, Nicole Williamson is tickling taste buds across the country with delicious ice cream and homemade crêpes served from charming vintage vans.

Her catering business We Are Lollapalooza (http://www.wearelollapalooza.co.uk) turns heads at festivals, weddings, parties and corporate events thanks to two 1970s Bedford ice cream vans and a converted Citroen HY post van called Pierre.

And with crêpe fillings ranging from the traditional lemon and sugar to tasty treats like strawberries and white chocolate – not to mention the scrumptious savoury range – the food lives up to the quirky vintage presentation.

They use locally sourced ingredients wherever possible and most of their ice cream comes from the Peak District.

Hard worker

Nicole, who is originally from Endon in the Staffordshire Moorlands but who now lives in Hanley with her boyfriend, got her first ice cream van when she was 18, running the business while studying at Staffs.

“I’m not sure what attracted me to this type of business,” says the 23-year-old, “but I always wanted to be my own boss. I think my mum once volunteered on an ice cream stand at a local fête and I couldn’t believe how busy it was so it gave me the idea.

“I really liked the old vintage vans and there was one on eBay at the time in Wales, so instead of having a first car, I went halves with my dad on my first ice cream van.

“I’ve always been driven and business-minded. I think starting young has helped me a lot and given me a head start. I feel like I now know the industry really well and I’ve learned a lot in the last five years. I couldn’t imagine doing any other job!”

She says choosing to study at Staffordshire was a “no-brainer” as she could easily pursue her business at weekends without needing to commute – and other members of her family had also enjoyed their time studying there.

Transferable skills

Despite there not being an immediate connection between her media and history degree course and the world of catering, she says her time at university prepared her well for her business life.

“I learned a lot from my lecturers at Staffs Uni,” says Nicole, whose favourite memories of her student days include Gobble and nights in the LRV. “They were all really supportive of me and my goals.

“Not only was I studying media and history, but I also learned a lot of life skills alongside this. I feel that I was pushed to reach my full capabilities and I’ve taken a lot of what I learned doing class presentations and speeches and applied them to my business today.

“The media side of my degree has really helped with certain aspects of the business too, such as the advertising and social media. Also vintage vans and history? Maybe there is some link there!”

Staff and students should watch out for Nicole’s vans around the university as she plans to attend a number of events, including the end of year celebration and open days.

And keep your eyes peeled elsewhere too as the vintage-styled team have a diary full of bookings around the country.

“Lollapalooza is a reflection of me,” says Nicole, who has just taken on her first employee and plans to expand her vintage fleet. “I put my all into it because I want it to work. I don’t take shortcuts because I like things to be spot on.”