Since the age of five, Alex Houseman has suffered – like 98 percent of people with an Asian heritage – from being lactose intolerant. This has meant no milk, no cream, no cheese, and even more sadly, no ice cream, unless he was prepared for feeling “really gross the next day”.
Houseman naturally inherited the tolerance from his mother who is from Hong Kong. He added that dessert would often be substituted with freshly cut fruits.
“There have been one too many rainy Tuesday nights of trying to watch a movie without ice cream, and it’s really sad. I just want to eat ice cream; it’s really as simple as that,” he said.
Fed up with being placed in a situation where he was forced to cope with his intolerance, and left with eating ice cream from brands that aren’t “so good” and are premium in price, he felt the need to do something about it.
“My vision is for a world where you’re lactose intolerant but there is no compromise or sacrifice, and you’re not missing out on anything; you can buy it in as many places as you would with other food; you wouldn’t have to pay anything extra; and you don’t have to sacrifice flavour,” he said.
This was the main motivation for Houseman launching Over The Moo, his own line of dairy-free coconut milk ice cream. Since mid-April, Over The Moo ice cream has been selling in over 50 retail outlets across the country, and is available in four flavours: chocolate, vanilla, mango, and coffee.
Houseman described the start of Over The Moo was more or less an idea he came up with overnight, saying he’s usually that guy that comes up with an idea everyday. He said the decision to stick with this particular one was because he genuinely believed there were was a gap in the market to produce dairy-free ice cream and charge people nearly 30 percent lower than other similar products out there.
The only industry related experience Houseman has ever had was in his previous job in food marketing, which he left late last year after two-and-a-half years, to pursue Over The Moo. Houseman though believes that it has worked out for the better.
“I had not worked well with hierarchy so in the end I decided I need to get this [idea] out of my system, and see how far I can go,” he said. “Since then, it has become a vehicle for the lifestyle I want: I want to have fun, I want to learn, and I get to explore Australia, meet new people, and be challenged.
“I think in my last two jobs it was so serious and dower; I could see myself becoming middle aged in front of my eyes. I was 25 and I thought this can’t be happening.”
Houseman also attributed his drive to succeed to his parents, who he has moved back with in Sydney, while his manufacturer continues churning ice cream from Melbourne.
“My family has been awesome. For a lot of other people, being able to support yourself while you start a business is impossible and a massive turnoff, but I moved back in with mum and dad, so without that it just wouldn’t be possible. I basically have spent all life savings and I’ve had help as well to finance the whole thing,” he said.
He also credited his dad as the brains behind the company name, which saved him from the “embarrassing” and “naff” name Yum Face – the original trademark brand Houseman came up with.
Houseman added another big challenge, which could also be viewed as a good problem to have, is not anticipating how fast the business has grown.
“I’m in this funny situation where I have lost control of the speed of growth. I got into a habit of saying yes to everything at the beginning, but today’s Alex is scolding yesterday’s Alex because I don’t have time,” he said.
“I’m really over extended right now, and should be start thinking about taking on a staff member.”