Yo Coco is the kind of vegan ice cream brand we can really get behind

Many of the successful business people I know or have heard of share a similar story of quitting a job to pursue a dream that probably seemed vivid and perhaps too big to realise in real life.

Yo Coco owner and founder, Sinenhlanhla Ndlela took a leap and jumped in the entrepreneurship industry after realising that she was using so much of her time helping other people with their own dreams.

“I was working at a production company following a move from Cape Town to Johannesburg with big dreams of working in television since I have a degree in television writing and post-production. But when I realised that I didn’t like the environment I was in, I quit to focus on my own business.”

But what really sparked the idea was realising that she wasn’t particularly feeling any of the vegan ice creams in the market. Initially, she doubted that she could actually make ice cream and toyed with the idea of making yoghurt instead, this is where the name of the ice cream company originated.

“But I managed to convince myself that I was being silly and that I should focus on what I really want to do but I kept the name.”

Admitting that it has been an interesting journey but not without its challenges of course.

“It was self belief and trusting that I can do it. I’m usually a starter and I’ve never really finished things I started because I get bored easily. If something gets boring or too difficult, I move on to the next thing. This time though, I have to commit because I have convinced everyone and myself that I in my early 20’s am choosing to go full on into the business industry and I will not fail.” Patience was also a challenge for her because she immediately wanted to see her business take shape exactly the way it’s pictured in her mind. “But the reality is, you have to start small and nothing can be a success overnight. So, I had to get over that quickly and learn to be patient as well as focus on putting in the work.”

Having run her business at the famous Maboneng for almost a year now, she recounted some of her major challenges as a black business woman so far.

She has come to find it hard to identify herself as a “black business woman” because as much as she doesn’t want to take away from that beautiful narrative but she struggles with the idea that she can’t just be “a good business woman” that happens to be black.

She has also found it pretty exhausting how black people want to support on their own terms and the refusal to take her seriously.

“You would not believe how many people expect me to sell my products cheaper than its current market value and how many people who beg me to give them a recipe of my ice cream,” she says via a voice note.

Hayi guys you are being disrespectful, you wouldn’t go to McDonalds to ask them to give you a recipe.

So manje, why do this? I have also seen this type of thinking many times,  people assuming that because a certain someone can do something, that they also can do it and this is not in that empowerment ideology but in that, “it’s obviously easy if so and so can do it and therefore, so can I.”

She also notes that her ice cream being a vegan product is a challenge in itself, considering that not a lot of black people are vegans, on top of that is the stigmas attached to veganism and vegetarianism in the black culture.

We just refuse to learn sometimes don’t we? Choosing to stay ignorant instead of educating ourselves about concepts we don’t fully fathom.  

“It’s been difficult and I realised that the main reason I held back from really showing myself through the business is because I also don’t like this narrative of supporting a black business solely because its a black business. No. Support it because it’s good. So that we can have good black businesses.”

But with all the trials and tribulations, Sine (yes, we are on nick-name basis because, acquaintances) is determined to make this work.

Because making the ice cream and seeing people enjoy it and seeing the difference it makes in people’s lives, especially people who haven’t been able to enjoy ice cream for a very long time, fills her heart with so much joy.

This nuts-milk, organic vegetables and fruits- based ice cream business is designed according to the seven chakras.

“That’s what I use as my guideline in terms of what flavours to experiment with and mix up. Sometimes it’s just also what I like at the moment or just a random mix.”

Ingredients are sourced around the best farms around Johustleburg (has a nice ring to it don’t it?)

I try to keep it as local as possible. So what I do is have a look at what’s in season and try to connect with farmers to source from them. If that doesn’t work,  I go to places like the JHB market, and sometimes from friends who have such businesses.”

She says the granadilla chocolate as her best seller right now, because of it’s freshness and the explosion of flavours from sour granadilla to the chocolate sweetness which kicks in after a while.

Other flavours include lemon dreams, lemon meringue, rooibos-and-cookies, avo and mint, spicy pumpkin and golden milk with turmeric.

She has collaborated with lifestyle brand, Dead to create a black vegan ice cream.

“I was reluctant because I didn’t know the owner and what he was about and at first, the collaboration was rocky. But eventually we worked well together and it was fun because we could feed off each other and learn a couple of things. His clientele is very different to mine, so exchanging the market was something we both benefited from.”

The erm..old enough millennial is currently working to expand her one-(wo)man team and an official website.

In future, she would like to own a farm, which she will to source the ingredients from. In the meantime though, she is enjoying the attention her business is drawing.

I am enjoying it but I’m feeding off the pressure to ensure that I do my best and that people don’t find holes to poke on.”

Joburgers, you can order a 500ml tub for R100 and you can get a discount if you order more than one tub and pay R90 for each.

You can order via Instagram @the_yococo or email info@yococo.co.za

If you’re a Jozihood outsider but somehow find yourself surrounded by the majestic buildings of the city of gold, you know where to get your ice cream.