Our “I Am Her” series features the female movers and shakers of the industry to learn how femininity and power coincide beautifully and seamlessly together.
For many people, ice cream is a simple comfort food that brings a touch of sweetness to our lives amid many worrying and stressful moments. But for Ice Cream & Cookie Co. (ICC) founder Natasha Chiam, what started out as a fondness for this confection eventually became a symbol of commitment to innovation and quality.
Natasha is a trained lawyer who was working as a journalist prior to venturing into entrepreneurship. One of the things she loved doing during her downtime was to create ice cream sandwiches for her then-boyfriend, now-husband.
After receiving good feedback from people who tasted her ice cream sandwiches, Natasha decided to sell the snack in Singapore farmers’ markets and weekend fairs in 2012. In 2013, a chef asked Natasha to be a supplier for his restaurant, opening up new opportunities for the business. This was also when Natasha realised that Singapore lacked “fresh, locally made, pre-packed ice cream novelties”, thus deciding to take on the challenge and address the market gap herself.
Below is our chat with Natasha on the sweet and humble beginnings of ICC, her commitment to innovation and quality, and more.
Fill in the blank (be as creative as you like): I am an entrepreneur, a trained lawyer and former journalist, and a
“Mother of 2.”
Talk to us about your background as a lawyer and journalist before pursuing your business. What are the skills and values that came in handy from those professions when you were just starting out as an entrepreneur?
“From the legal field, two attributes in particular that come in handy are the ability to problem solve and the ability to understand many points of view on one subject or issue. As a law student, you must see problems from multiple perspectives and understand how this impacts decision-making. This skill is valuable in leading a team because it allows you to view issues or conflicts with a rounded perspective and helps you make better decisions.
From journalism, I became very comfortable working under time pressure and with limited resources — characteristics that are also common in a start-up environment. A curious and investigative mindset also helps an entrepreneur.”
As someone who loves listening to podcasts like The Food Chain by BBC, Taste Radio, etc., have you ever thought about starting your own podcast?
“If I ever were to have a podcast, I’d want to have one where people can share their own stories. I’m always fascinated by the experiences of others, whether they be hardships or triumphs — there is always something to learn. I think listening to the stories of others is, in a way, sharing their experience which can be incredibly uplifting and hopeful. I’d call the podcast Soul Food.”
ICC started out as a stall in weekend markets back in 2012. How much have things changed since and what remained the same about the business?
“Our ethos of constant innovation along with a commitment to quality remains the same. Since we started out in 2012, the scale of The Ice Cream & Cookie Co. has grown. Each time we expand, we continue to factor quality into our business plans because we will only offer products we would serve to our family and friends.
Naturally, over the years, as we deepen our understanding of customers’ needs — and register how these needs change over time — our markers for quality have extended. Today, it includes working towards launching more health-friendly products, as well as options that are suited to children and adults who are sensitive to food allergens. In addition, we are in the process of becoming halal certified. We want as many members of our community to be able to enjoy our products.
We are also proud to be a homegrown brand. As we mature as a business, we have expressed this in our flavour innovations. These range from crowd-pleasers such as Onde Onde (a fragrant pandan coconut ice cream with chewy mochi) which reflects our culinary heritage to The People’s Pint (a mango sorbet with coconut-condensed milk swirl with chewy mochi). The latter was part of our kindness initiative which we crowdsourced earlier this year to celebrate our 10th year. It has been exceedingly rewarding to be recognised by the Made With Passion initiative.”
You handle the business hands-on from production to logistics and marketing and sales. What is your favourite stage from the entire process and why?
“The innovation stage is my favourite. Being able to create something meaningful that people enjoy — and are able to create happy memories with — is what I love most. The innovation part is a stage of freedom; it’s a blank slate. There’s always excitement in thinking of the future potential of your idea or creation.”
Do you plan to expand ICC outside of Singapore?
“We have not yet expanded outside of Singapore, but we have plans to do so soon. We believe that many of our signature flavours reflecting local heritage will appeal to customers outside of Singapore. It is also our hope that we make it possible for Singaporeans to be able to savour a taste of home wherever they may be and share this with their family and friends overseas.”
What’s your all-time favourite snack, ingredient, or food item that made its way into ICC’s menu?
“Sometimes, we jokingly ask our son (currently aged 4) to come up with ice cream flavours for us. One day he said ‘Banana! With popcorn inside!’ This actually inspired our Banana Caramel flavour. We chose to add a rich caramel swirl instead of popcorn and the rest is history. It’s one of our newer, but very popular flavours.”
What would a Natasha Chiam ice cream flavour be like? It can be a classic, artisan, weird, or new undiscovered flavour.
“I would say Dark Chocolate. To me, it represents quality, because this flavour really depends on the quality of the chocolate used. It’s a reminder of one of my beliefs that you can only get out what you put in.”
Talk us through your essentials in living out your ‘most beautiful life’. It can be anything from beauty, fashion, lifestyle, wellness, etc.
“Nurturing positive relationships with family and friends is essential to living my most beautiful life. I first started making ice cream myself because I wanted to make it possible for my friends and family members with food allergies to enjoy quality ice cream. I am now able to offer the same to consumers through The Ice Cream Cookie & Co. This gives me great satisfaction. It is what living out a beautiful life means to me.”
Comments, questions or feedback? Email us at [email protected].