“Dairy-free ice cream isn’t anything new, but dairy-free ice cream that is good enough to fool your granny is,” so says Alexander Houseman, founder and head honcho at Over The Moo.
The secret to Houseman’s dairy-free ice cream is coconut and inner-city hipsters and socially conscious foodies have taken to the dessert by storm. It’s not uncommon to see a huge line of adults waiting to purchase a scoop whenever Houseman’s tailor-made ice cream truck, a revamped Mr Whippy van rolls up at an inner city park.
However, it’s not just the vegan food warriors that have embraced Over the Moo. The ice cream is now stocked at over 500 Woolworths stores – making it well and truly a mainstream option. Not bad for an idea that came to life on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
“I got the idea for my business while I was sitting on the couch watching TV with my girlfriend,” he tells Kochie’s Business Builders. “She was digging into a big tub of ice cream and was so not happy about it. I’m lactose intolerant and I was just fed up with being left out. I couldn’t find a dairy-free ice cream that was genuinely delicious but also not crazy expensive.”
And with that thought, Over the Moo was born.
Not that Houseman is a stranger to great tasting wares. He’s third generation food industry and tells us he continues to draw a lot of inspiration and advice from family.
“Some of my earliest memories involve me sitting on shop floors or hanging out in my corner of the family business’ warehouse,” he says. “Creativity and inventiveness is always a prominent factor of any successful business, but the key values I gained from my family are to work really hard and always be humble”
And work hard is exactly what this twenty-something entrepreneur has done. Like most self-made small business owners, Houseman has a steep learning curve for the first 18 months of his business.
Cash flow issues can strangle small businesses pretty quickly, especially when revenue is growing so quickly,” Houseman says. “As a first-time business owner, I have to admit that I wasn’t on top of this one from the beginning so it has been a major learning curve for me.
“The first step for us was to take on advice from people with more experience than us. We formed an advisory board to steer us through. Next step was to really sink our teeth into reporting and forecasting – being on top of the problem and being up-front about where you’re at and where you’re trying to get to is key.
“I also did some evening courses in financial management that helped me hold my own when it came to talking about financial matters with prospective investors, financiers, and even my own team,” Houseman adds.
Nonetheless Houseman says he realized pretty early on that Over the Moo was going to be a hit.
“I think during the final product development stages it was clear to me that we’d developed a genuinely special product.
“We did a bunch of tasting panels with friends and family to test out the recipe. I couldn’t leave a tub of Over The Moo on the table without it being devoured in a few minutes. For a food product, there isn’t a better gauge than that really.”
Of course, an ice cream lives and dies on its flavor and texture and Houseman says Over the Moo wins on both counts.
“Over The Moo is just delicious ice cream that happens to be made from coconut milk rather than dairy. It’s got the same creamy, indulgent feel of traditional dairy plus it’s packed with yummy bits like toffee balls and chocolate sauce,” he says.
Then there are the ethical and environmental benefits of a non-dairy dessert.
“Beyond delicious flavour, getting into coconut milk ice cream has its benefits. It’s perfect for lactose intolerant folks, vegans, and our gluten free friends. Dairy milk puts out about 20 times more CO2 than coconut milk so Over The Moo is also easier on the environment than most dairy ice creams.”
Houseman is also keen to report that Over The Moo recently scooped up the Telstra New Business of the Year award. The win, he says, came as a “massive shock”.
“We’re not quite over it yet. Being named 2017 Telstra New Business of the Year adds some weight to our little brand and really sets us aside from our competitors.
“The whole Telstra Business Awards process has also catalyzed change within the business. The application and judging process is quite onerous and it forced us to look at what we were doing well, where we should be doing more and forced us to look at things we needed to start on.”