Scoops of (vegan) love from Yococo

Sometimes building a business tastes pretty sweet - advice from an entrepreneur on growing yourself and your business.

Vegan women holding Yococo is a dairy-free, artisanal ice cream tubes over her eyes.
By Terrena Rathanlall

When you think of summer, you think of warm, sunny days, lying on the beach and ice cream. Whether it’s two scoops or three or just the whole tub, ice cream is a cool, decadent treat that’s available in a multitude of flavours to satisfy any palate. Unless you are vegan or lactose-intolerant. Then you reach for Yococo’s scoops of love.

Yococo is a dairy-free, artisanal ice cream company. And they have just won the Best Vegan Friendly Ice Cream Brand in South Africa at the annual Global Excellence Awards hosted by Lux Life Magazine. “I am so excited! said Yococo owner Sinenhlanhla Ndlela. “And amazed, considering that four years I did not know how to make vegan ice cream!”

Sinenhlanhla is a TV writing and post production graduate who quit three months into her first job. She knew that the extreme anxiety she felt had more to do with her tumultuous childhood than leaving her job and adjusting to life in a new city.

A kinesiologist helped her deal with her past and advised radical changes to her lifestyle and her diet. Eliminating dairy was one of them. This meant missing out on her favourite treat: ice cream. But she noticed that dairy-free options were extremely limited for ice cream loving vegans and those allergic to dairy. Sinenhlanhla decided to take advantage of this gap in the market and start her own business in 2016.

It makes sense that she would choose to build a business on this. Ice cream conjures up happy memories for Sinenhlanhla, who was raised by her grandmother while her mother was at university. Every time her mother visited, she brought ice cream, which made Sine feel loved and special. So, she set out to ensure that others felt the same.

Sinenhlanhla comes from a family of healers and her beloved grandmother was one of them. She believes she is fulfilling her purpose by healing through positive memories and ensuring that what she produces does not make people sick.

But this type of awareness is a journey and there have been many learning curves for her personally and in her business.

“Everything we eat means something. What we put into our bodies is a form of self-love, or not. I want my customers to choose love.

“But my first batch of ice cream was so bad, I almost quit and went back to work,” she laughs. She persevered and eight, long months later, her first batch of Cookies and Rooibos flavoured vegan ice cream was sold at the Rosebank Market in Johannesburg.

Today, you will find unusual flavour combinations such as beetroot and chocolate, avocado and mint, and the very popular granadilla and chocolate at stores in Gauteng and KZN. Yococo has an online store and is a regular feature at markets around Johannesburg. Health conscious customers also line up for their vegan cakes on a stick.

“We use as many locally sourced ingredients as possible to make our ice cream and we incorporate colour therapy into the flavours. We don’t just focus on the nutritional value of the ingredients but the healing properties of colour as well.

“Preserving the environment is important to us, so our packaging is biodegradeable. Put it all together and you have the ultimate guilt-free dessert.”

She had a few pieces of advice to anyone wanting to start the entrepreneurial journey: “My first year in business was horrible but also fun. I was filled with self-doubt; it was scary – I started with big dreams and then realised that I had to adjust my expectations.

“I realised how much work was needed to make this dream come true. I had to grow up and learn how to run a business. But perhaps my most important realisation was that it was more important for me to grow as a person than it was for me to grow my business,” said Sinenhlanhla.

Tell us your favourite flavour combination here.

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About the Author

Terrena Rathanlall is a media officer at Fetola.

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