“I always say it started with a craving,” says Natasha Chiam when asked how The Ice Cream & Cookie Co. came into being. After all, she first started making ice cream cookies as a fun weekend activity.
A law graduate, she was at the time a beauty writer for Female magazine, who despite relishing the writer’s craft — “I’d always enjoyed it and was pretty decent at it” — had a passion for making and selling her ice cream cookie sandwiches at small farmers’ markets or events in her spare time. But as her name got out and more orders started flowing in, Chiam decided to leave journalism and venture down the entrepreneurial path instead. “Had I not started my own business [in 2012], I’d definitely still be in that profession,” she tells me. “I left when I could no longer fulfil both roles to a level that I was satisfied with.”
Entrepreneurship runs in her blood. Raised in Australia, her parents used to own chocolate retail shops, though they’ve since retired. This exposure probably explains why as early as primary school, Chiam had an eye for business — starting first by selling lemonade outside the family home, and later as a teenager, making jewellery pieces with a friend to be sold at craft markets in Melbourne.
But these early experiences didn’t spare her from the challenges she faced in the beginning of her sweet dreams, she reveals, admitting that it has been “a real rollercoaster”. As an admitted perfectionist, it was particularly hard not to fixate over every little detail — something that is unrealistic given an entrepreneur’s never ending to-do list. But there is an upside, she says. Choosing the entrepreneurial path has made her more thick-skinned, as well as sharper and stronger in mind.
“The biggest challenge for me was learning how to let go a little and understand that business will always be a work-in-progress…Instead of perfection and completeness, now I strive for excellence. I am learning how to move the business forward while accepting that there will always be loose ends,” she says.
Her husband Andrew Lie has been a pillar of support and is now based in Hong Kong to help steer The Ice Cream & Cookie Co.’s expansion into China and other Asian markets. “In some ways, working with your partner is easier,” she shares. “We really understand each other so we don’t need to sugar-coat anything. In a way, that makes things more efficient.”
Their goal: “To bring well-made, high-quality Singapore products to the rest of Asia and then even further abroad.”
Ice cream and cookies are…the perfect complement for each other. Pairing the right ice cream with the right cookie brings out the best in both — for instance, our lemon zest cookies bring out the bergamot fragrance of our earl grey tea ice cream.
Ice cream sandwiches are…the best way to put a smile on someone’s face.
People don’t realise that…even though customers continue to request for interesting flavours, the bestseller is always vanilla.
My favourite ice-cream flavour is…dark chocolate.
Juggling my time is…easy! My life and business are so intertwined it doesn’t really feel like a “juggling act”.
Running my own company is…exciting and demanding. Building a business from the ground up is more than a full-time commitment. I’m constantly thinking about growth and how to improve.
The best business advice I’ve received is…to do all things with integrity.
I’ve been so obsessive that…in my final year of high school, I tracked down every single past exam that had ever been written and finished them all; and when I previously worked for a company, I would make to-do lists and wouldn’t be satisfied until I checked all the boxes.
Outside of my business, I most enjoy…cooking meals for family and friends.