By: Vivienne Pearson
As Horst Thomson was lying on the floor, in a funk after losing his job, a small voice spoke to him. It said: ‘Ice-cream’.
Most others would take this as a sign to grab a tub of ice-cream and start eating. But not Horst. He started an ice-cream-making business. It is called Knox & Aya.
Knox & Aya’s ice-cream is not ordinary. It is vegan, thanks to the use of coconut milk instead of dairy. Horst, along with his partner in business and life, Nadine, started making coconut-milk ice-cream at home after extensive medical testing could find neither a cause nor cure for his daughter’s skin rash. It only disappeared after eliminating dairy and refined sugars and grains.
Horst was already a good cook. Deciding it would be easier for the whole family to adopt the new diet, Horst experimented with making foods that were ‘good to eat and made you feel good all day’. Ice-cream was one of these, and a choc/peanut-butter flavour was soon the family’s favourite.
To fund the purchase of a decent ice-cream-making machine, Horst turned to crowdfunding. He not only reached his target (of $5,000) but found the crowdfunding process to be a huge confidence booster. ‘You have so much doubt when you start something,’ he says. Crowdfunding works by offering donators something in return for their investment. Tellingly, no-one wanted the t-shirts or tickets to the launch party that were on offer. They all wanted ice-cream.
Now, nearly nine months on, the main game for Knox & Aya is selling ice-cream in tubs via stores. Local options include Santos, Baz+Shaz, the Green Garage and the Garage Grocer. Ice-cream in a cone is available via a mobile ice-cream van at events and markets.
Horst and Nadine use these events to get feedback and test new flavours and get feedback. The flavours are indulgent, strong and satisfying. Some in development include lime, and a caramel pecan. The family’s home favourite, choc-peanut butter, has been ousted from top seller by salted-caramel and chocolate ‘moneycomb’ (a honey comb made with coconut nectar instead of honey, in keeping with the vegan theme).
Horst reckons that 20 per cent of buyers at events care about the ice-cream’s being vegan. The rest? ‘They just want an ice-cream!’ says Horst. Maybe they heard the little voice too.