A taste for Persian fusion

Enterprise: TA’LA Ice Cream

What they offer: Reihaneh Pourhamedani has harnessed nostalgia for her Persian heritage and a passion for creativity, to produce an exotic range of ice creams.

Reihaneh Pourhamedani studied architecture in her native Persia and has always harboured a passion for expressing her creativity. Upon moving to Australia, she was struck by the diverse nature of the country and Australians’ eagerness to try multicultural cuisine.

Having grown up enjoying ice cream at her grandpa’s shop, Reihaneh harnessed that strong nostalgia, along with a keen interest in food. She was determined to infuse her heritage and culture into the Australian community through spices and flavours. She launched TA’LA Ice Cream in 2017, a venture that enabled her to express her artistic talent and creative intent. “It allowed me to challenge myself and explore my sense of smell and taste, as well as my visual creative nature, all at once,” she explains. “It also enabled me to keep my grandpa’s legacy alive through creation of an artisan product that nods back to my homeland of Persia – think exotic flavours of saffron, pistachio and rosewater.” Saffron is infused into TA’LA’s ice cream for a decadently exotic flavour, the delicate rosewater brings it an aromatic profile, and pistachios provide a tantalising taste.

“Our aim is not to sell just ice cream, but to offer our customers a memorable and unique sensory experience.”

Reihaneh’s journey with TA’LA, which means gold in Persian, has had its challenges. “It is an uphill battle for a small business to get a share of a market already saturated by big competitors,” she explains. “I am committed to using high-quality ingredients, including freshly produced Australian dairy, and sustainable production processes. As a result, we are less competitive in price compared to larger companies.

“The same challenge exists in getting distributors and retailers to recognise the potential of this product and be part of our vision,” Reihaneh adds. “As a small business, I am always concerned that big competitors will try to copy the unique flavours that we have worked so hard to develop.”

Reihaneh cites joining Females in Food as a key element in overcoming these early bumps in the road. “Being part of a group of like-minded female entrepreneurs who were experiencing similar challenges and had similar entrepreneurial aspirations, helped me overcome the occasional self-doubts and constant challenges that every small-business owner faces,” Reihaneh avers, acknowledging the guidance and support she has received from Females in Food’s founder, Chelsea Ford. This mentorship was particularly important when COVID-19 struck, helping Reihaneh deal with the fact that the market for her product in luxury hotels, which she had spent months of hard work and tough negotiations creating, was shut down when those hotels had to close their doors due to the pandemic.

A determination to succeed and strict adherence to principles has helped TA’LA flourish. “We know our customers vary in their needs, but all recognise and cherish high-quality and novelty in their product choices,” Reihaneh says. “Our aim is not to sell just ice cream, but to offer our customers a memorable and unique sensory experience with a variety of products, using unique flavours, exquisitely crafted with intricate details and infinite care.”

Reihaneh is intolerant to lactose and gluten, and over time she realised how many of her potential customers have similar intolerances and a dislike of food additives and preservatives. “I had to innovate to address my customers’ dietary needs, resulting in the development of our vegan-friendly range and gluten-free and egg free-products,” she explains. “We are committed to inclusiveness, with no one to be left behind.”

Now the business is established, Reihaneh envisions TA’LA as a luxury brand served in most Australian and Southeast Asian high-end hotels and resorts, first-class airlines and cruise lines around the world. “We would like to position and promote our brand as an ‘Australian Collection’, to appeal to Australia’s image of quality, natural beauty and diversity,” Reihaneh enthuses.

This article first appeared in issue 36 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine