Sydney University graduate wins 2017 Telstra Business Award

20 October 2017

Graduate Alex Houseman
Graduate Alex Houseman

Congratulations to graduate Alex Houseman on winning the 2017 Telstra New Business of the Year Award for his successful ice cream business, Over The Moo.

Being lactose intolerant, Alex wasn't able to find dairy-fee ice cream that was both delicious and also reasonably priced. Over The Moo was the answer to his dilemma.

"I knew dairy-free ice cream wasn't anything new, but dairy-free ice cream that is good enough to fool your granny is," said Alex.

Since it's launch in 2015, Over The Moo has grown and expanded its distribution network exponentially, including over 500 Woolworths stores across the country.

Alex graduated from the University of Sydney in 2010 with a Bachelor of International Studies and Honours in Political Economy. Eleanor Nurse, Over The Moo's marketing manager, also graduated the same year with a Bachelor of International Studies, majoring in Political Economy and Government.

 "We landed Woolworths just over a year after starting the company. To get listing in a major supermarket that quickly is almost unheard of for a food start-up. It made me look at Over The Moo as something that really could go places. That was when I took on Eleanor, my first employee," said Alex.

Over the Moo caramel icecream
Over the Moo caramel icecream

Winning the Telstra New Business of the Year Award was an unexpected achievement for Alex and his business.

"Winning the Award was honestly a massive shock. The Award adds some weight to our little brand and really sets up aside from our competitors in the market," said Alex.

Over The Moo was not Alex's first attempt at a start-up. His efforts include art deco birdhouses, when he was a teenager, a Shanghai-based coffee roastery-café and an online tailored-shirt business. "Let's say Over The Moo is my first start-up to actually have revenue".

Alex believes establishing a business is as much a lifestyle decision as it was a business decision.

"Running your own business means you can take more risk so you can be in control of your own learning and you can grow both professionally and personally much faster. Having said that, I think there are a lot of false perceptions. For all of the benefits of increased autonomy and control, you can end up tied to your business: you can go without an income for months on end," said Alex.

Alex attributes his determination to launch a business to his studies in Political Economy at the University of Sydney.

"Without the Honours under my belt, I seriously doubt I would've had the maturity to pull off starting my own business.

"I think there are a lot of parallels between writing a thesis and starting a business: long, lonely periods of what feels like an insurmountable amount of work; your mates not understanding what you're doing or why; sacrificing a solid income for a passion project.

"This might also sound a bit far-fetched but I still talk about our day-to-day business challenges using dialectical terms like capital, value, crisis and volatility. With so many factors affecting our business, explaining problems using dialectics can help cut through complex problems and find solutions quickly.

"I doubt my Honours supervisor would necessarily encourage or agree with my application of Marxian studies to our day-to-day business issues, but I nonetheless place a huge amount of value on the learnings I took from Political Economy Honours," said Alex.