On 21st April Health Bloggers Community members will be heading to Urban Health in Ranelagh, Dublin to take part in a food photography workshop. Using the beautiful studio above the cafe, participants will snap photos of the delicious selection of treats on offer. Want to join us? Grab your tickets here.
Ahead of the afternoon, we asked Urban Health owner Dee a few questions about what it’s really like to run your own healthy eating cafe.
Tell us a bit about Urban Health – what is it and what can people find there?
Urban Health is a health food cafe & juice bar in Ranelagh stocking an array of health food products.
We are all about creating a healthy lifestyle, combining mind and body. We have a pilates and yoga studio above our store which runs a full timetable of classes 7 days a week. We believe that what you put into your body in terms of food can have a big impact on how you feel and believe in promoting exercise for fitness and mental health.
What inspired you to start Urban Health?
Having moved home from Australia in 2011 where I met and later married my husband Darragh, we both saw a gap in the market here for a healthy eating store that provided fresh healthy salads and wraps that weren’t laden with mayonaise or salad dressings.
We’d gained inspiration from some of the cafes in Sydney where the health food and the outdoor lifestyle was booming and was a part of day to day life. We wanted to not just open a store we wanted to create a concept. We wanted to promote being healthy by combining non processed foods and juices with exercise to show people how it can have not only a positive effect on a person’s body but also on their mind and their mental health.
We initially opened our downstairs cafe / store in 2014 and a year later opened our upstairs studio space – Urban Space. After the first year and initial set up Darragh stepped back and returned to the corporate world and I now run the business with him as a silent partner.
What skills did you come to the business with already?
I’d done an array of things over the years. I started in the fashion industry with modeling in my early 20’s while also studying fashion buying in college. Throughout this time I’d also been working in bars and restaurants and I loved the hospitality industry.
When I was 25 I went back to college to study Hospitality Management before deciding to go traveling in India, South East Asia and Australia where I settled for 2 years. During this time I’d also been practicing yoga on a regular basis and when I returned to Ireland in 2012 I made the decision to become a yoga instructor. I packed my bags once more and headed for Thailand but this time only for a month to do my teacher training.
When I returned I was teaching full time for two years until Darragh and I decided we’d finally take the jump and fulfil a long term dream of ours. We opened the doors of Urban Health on the 29th December 2014, just in time for the January detox market!
What skills have been most important in helping you grow your business?
Customer service skills are probably the most important skills to have in the hospitality industry. It’s an area that I feel can be lacking in modern day business and life especially as everything has become so fast paced. It’s also important to be patient, especially when running your own business.
When it’s your own operation the tendancy is to want things done overnight, sometime you need to step back and take a breath. Have patience in order for things to be done properly.
How have bloggers helped you grow your brand?
Bloggers have been a huge part our our business, especially in the beginning as so much of our initial custom came through social media. Our Juice detoxes became an instant hit with bloggers, many doing reviews. We also had many influencers help to promote us through check-ins and tags. Another big part of getting our brand out there was by getting together with other small Irish businesses and brands to co-promote each other.
Was Urban Space always part of the plan?
Urban Space was always the dream of mine, especially as a yoga instructor, I’d always dreamed of my own studio space, but I wasn’t always sure that it would become a reality. When it did I was over the moon! It’s brought our business from strength to strength especially as it completes our original concept of combining healthy food with fitness and a healthy mind.
Although it’s primarily a pilates and yoga studio we also hold nutrition and accupuncture talks from time to time. We also have a physio therapist who uses it for weekley physio sessions and it’s used for photo shoots also.
What’s the most challenging thing about setting up your own cafe?
The most challenging thing when it’s your own business is that if something goes wrong it’s on your shoulders. It’s a lot of responsibility and so much work. Since Darragh stepped away from the business after the initial first year, I now run it on my own. I do all the back end stuff which is endless. It’s a lot of work and can be stressful but it’s worth it if it’s something you truely believe in and enjoy, which I do.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you started?
There are probably lots of little things I would have done differently in the beginning which looking back would have saved a lot of money however you have to learn these things as you go and don’t know until you try. You have to learn from mistakes, it’s the only way.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own cafe?
I would probably say ‘know what you’re getting yourself into’.
The food industry is probably one of the hardest industries to be in. There are a lot of regulations around it. But if someone is looking at opening a cafe they probably already know that and have a passion for the industry so I’d say ‘do it, follow your dreams and learn from your mistakes’, it’s the only way!