Leading the Way
Old Girl, Natasha Chiam graduated from St Catherine’s School in 2003 as our School Dux. Now, Natasha is CEO of a major ice cream company based in Singapore. We hear about her career progression in the first of our Leading the Way – Where are they Now stories…
- What is your current position and what does it involve?
I am Founder & Director of The Ice Cream & Cookie Co. (“ICC”)
ICC is an ice cream manufacturing business based in Singapore. In our early days, we sold our products at local food fairs and farmers’ markets. Now, we manufacture and supply our ice cream products to a wide range of F&B establishments in Singapore, ranging from indie cafes to gourmet groceries and luxury hotel groups. As a small business owner, I am involved in all aspects of the company (accounting, HR, business development etc). Currently my focus is on export projects. We will be exporting our products within Asia, and would love to also find distribution partners in Australia in the future.
- What is your career background?
I studied law at The University of Melbourne, and worked as a lawyer for about a year. Following that, I spent just over two years in journalism at a fashion magazine. In 2012 I started ICC.
- What have been two of your greatest career achievements to date?
One was scaling up from a small takeaway ice cream shop to a commercial factory. We had to learn a lot about food manufacturing standards and regulations, which are much more stringent than those governing F&B retail businesses (i.e., restaurants or cafes). Last year our factory achieved ISO 22000 and HACCP certification (internationally recognised food safety management systems) which assures the safety of our products.
A more personal career achievement would be the first time I heard a stranger talking about our brand – thankfully saying positive things. It was nice to see firsthand that our company had become known by people who weren’t my friends or family!
- What challenges have you faced professionally and how have you dealt with them?
As with anyone who sells a product to the public, you’re at the receiving end of a lot of customer feedback (both good and bad). I didn’t have much prior experience in customer service, so at first I found it quite emotionally draining to deal with difficult clients. I am learning not to take things to heart, but to listen and respond professionally to make each customer feel heard, and to take action to constantly improve our business.
- Thinking about your career progression, what study did you undertake post- school and how was it beneficial?
Studying law was definitely beneficial. Legal contracts form the basis of most business transactions and it helps to have an understanding of how to draft and read them properly. Being aware of basics of intellectual property also helped us protect our company’s IP assets. As we created our own brand identity, this is particularly important.
- Reflecting on your time at St Catherine’s how do you feel the School/staff/ students assisted you?
The environment at St Catherine’s was extremely supportive. I always felt I was able to participate in anything, be it academia, music or sport without fear of judgment. It’s given me a confidence in life to try new things and always push boundaries. This kind of positivity is essential in business.
- What advice would you have for current St Catherine’s students, particularly our VCE students, when selecting subjects, tertiary courses and careers?
Choose something you excel in. It’s better to be the top of a niche field than middling in a popular one. When you are instinctively good at something you have a natural advantage over your competition, and it is that much easier to stay motivated during tough times, while continuing to develop and improve.