Java Hemmat, founder of the incredibly tasty Hummus Chick hummus, moved from the United Arab Emirates in 1998 to attend MTSU and is thrilled to become an American citizen this month! She has lots of plans to celebrate, including possibly a costume party, but she’s especially anxious to travel with her new American passport. According to Java, “It will be such an honor to travel outside the country with an American passport. From the moment I stepped into this country, I’ve been welcomed. I can’t say how grateful I am to everyone I’ve met.” Today, we are honored to spotlight Java as our FACE of Nashville!
How did you end up in Nashville?
I moved from the UAE to become a student at MTSU in 1998. After graduation, it was most affordable to move to Nashville, but I made sure I had a job before moving here. Income first. That was in July 2003. Nashville is more diverse now and developing. There are more languages and more diversity. In 2003, it was completely different, and it’s such an honor to be part of the growth. It’s exciting to see all these people from all over the country and world choose to move here. I’m so blessed to be here.
Did anything surprise you when you moved to the United States?
I was surprised that, at the time, no one knew where UAE was. The reaction of people was surprising. Where do you buy jeans? Do you have ice cream? With the recent popularity of Dubai, more people know about the UAE today.
Tell us about Hummus Chick.
I started Hummus Chick in May of 2012, part time. But, on January 1, 2014, I made the leap to full time. The brand is in 15 stores, with more coming soon (some big ones!). It’s all grown organically, one hummus container at a time.
Do you sell anything besides hummus?
It all started with hummus, but I now offer tabouli, and I’m most excited about a spice line that I am launching this fall. It’s based off of different regions around the world … spice blends. The Bombay Blend is for Indian-inspired food, and there will be Persian, French, etc. I love spices; little pinches make a big difference.
Do you have any employees?
I have two part-time employees and have learned that investing in great employees is so important. Both my employees are deaf and incredibly hardworking. I’m excited to be learning sign language. In fact, one of my employees speaks French sign language and the other American sign language!
What inspired you to start your own business?
I’ve inherited entrepreneurship from my ancestors, and I’ve been passionate about creating a unique product, managing my own time and bringing convenience to health-conscious customers. Owning a business tied all those aspects together. I couldn’t regularly find the blends of hummus I enjoyed, so I learned to make my own. Through my process, I fell in love with history and culture of Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, and I wanted to share the deliciousness with the community.
Do you have a mentor?
I have had several mentors, and they are still very active in my professional life. My father has taught me that resilience is what an entrepreneur needs. He plays a big role in my professional life, and calls back home are very serious! Also, the co-founders of Conexion Americas, Renata Soto and José González … they have such a background on growth and have played a strong role. Being in this niche, I have met my neighbors at the farmers markets. The food community is very close, and we share lessons that we’ve learned: product development and branding, flavor profiles. I’ve learned so much from my Nashville food community friends.
What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs?
Each person has a unique set of ideas, which can be investible opportunities. Commit to your goals, strengthen your determination and work ethic, and learn to become an excellent problem solver. Also, focus on building your confidence to make healthy decisions and deepen fruitful relationships. It is okay if you don’t have all the answers today … the good news is that there are so many talented individuals who can help, so just reach out and ask!
What is your favorite hummus flavor from your collection?
It depends on my mood [She laughs]. Classic is what I grew up with. Back home, there is only one recipe. Americans have a curious palate, which is fun to cook for. For me, it depends on what I’m eating. I like the roasted garlic and cilantro hummus on a sandwich instead of mayo. If I have guests over, I like to serve my spicy canvas and pesto hummus, as it’s exciting and adventurous.
Do you have any immediate family members who live nearby?
My sister lives in Jacksonville, FL. She’s married and a nurse!
What is your favorite meal you’ve recently had in Nashville?
One of my favorite things to eat is a good cheeseburger, fries and a Diet Coke. It’s quite funny since I own a vegan company. But I’ve recently had good cheeseburgers at The Pharmacy and Pinewood Social. I’m looking forward to trying out Gabby’s.
Do you have a quote or saying that you rely on?
Believing in extraordinary events. Whatever your goal is, put the plan in place to reach the goals. For example, speaking English: I failed many times. I’m not too proud to admit that. I dreamed of speaking it effortlessly. I kept trying, and one day I could! You need to go after and believe in your dreams.
After a hard week, how do you find peace?
I’m very big on practicing meditation. Few moments of stress here and there … it’s all relieved by practicing meditation. I’ve trained my mind and spirit to go into that place of gratefulness. I count my blessings, and then the tiredness and whatever was stressing me vanishes. I don’t have the time to have more luxurious things to partake in, but mediation centers me.
What are three things, besides faith, family and friends, that you can’t live without?
- The moon
- My little kitten that behaves like a puppy
Thank you, Java! You can find this incredible hummus at the Franklin Farmers Market on Saturdays and the 12 South Farmers Market on Tuesday afternoons. We first tried it at Juice Bar, where it comes with sliced vegetables ready to go … so good! For a full listing of where to purchase Hummus Chick products, see here.
Thanks to Ashley Hylbert of Ashley Hylbert Photography for today’s great photos!