This Malaysian Left His IT Job To Keep His Parents' 40-Year-Old Nyonya Kuih Business Alive

"I seriously don't want this culture to die."

Cover image via John Woo (Provided to SAYS) & Nyonya Heritage (Facebook)

Meet John Woo, a 39-year-old Malaysian who quit his job in late 2018 to help his parents with their Nyonya kuih business

Both of John's parents, 68-year-old Woo Seng Moon and 63-year-old Sum Yoke Lan, have been running Nyonya Heritage for over 40 years. However, when John noticed his parents were starting to struggle to sustain the business due to old age, he knew he had to step in to help them out.

Speaking to SAYS, John said, "At first, it was because of helping my parents due to their age, but after going through a brief study, I noticed this business actually presents a valuable asset for Malaysia's Nyonya culture."

Previously, John was self-running an IT company that majored in System Integrator (SI) and offered printing solution services for six years. Now, he spends his days helping his parents prepare and sell over 30 types of traditional Nyonya kuih and snacks you won’t easily find elsewhere.

Back in 1978, John's parents began learning how to make Nyonya kuih from Baba Nyonya kuih masters in Penang

When the couple got married, they decided to run their own business. Not wanting to work for other people, they started selling Nyonya kuih using the recipes they learned from traditional Nyonya kuih masters. 

Since opening in 1978, Nyonya Heritage has drawn lots of attention from crowds in Brickfields for their authentic and affordable Nyonya kuih and delicacies. 

However, preparing Nyonya kuih is by no means an easy task. Every Monday to Saturday, John and his parents start their cooking and baking preparations from as early as 3.30am.

Early in the morning, the family gets up to buy fresh ingredients from the wet market. When they get back, John would assist his parents in making the traditional Nyonya kuih all the way up until 11am, which is when the Nyonya Heritage stall officially opens and operates until 6.30pm.

When the Movement Control Order (MCO) was imposed earlier this year, John shared that Nyonya Heritage was forced to close down, which meant no income at all

"When MCO was first imposed, we faced immediate closure of our stall and were forced to take a two-month break." 

"There was no income from our stall at all during those two months, and we were just hanging onto our savings." 

When CMCO was announced later on, John and his parents were allowed to open their stall, but it was quiet and different from the stall's usual hustle and bustle. 

"Things were tough at the beginning as people were scared to go out in the streets," John said.

However, the one thing that really helped their business tremendously during those times was being a Merchant-Partner with Grab

"Luckily, we were already a GrabFood Merchant-Partner before MCO was imposed, so that solved our delivery issues tremendously."

When John started helping his family in September 2018, he knew the importance of technology and how food deliveries were becoming a lifestyle trend. That's why early on, he signed up Nyonya Heritage to be a GrabFood Merchant-Partner.

"Working with Grab has changed our business in a way that we are able to provide delivery service to our customers without additional cost and manpower."

After helping out his parents with Nyonya Heritage for more than two years, John now sees how valuable the Nyonya culture is, and hopes to preserve it with the aid of technology

As John knew that social media can make a big impact, he kickstarted Nyonya Heritage's Facebook page with the aim of making Malaysians aware of the importance of maintaining traditions and culture.

Not only did he come up with a logo for his parents' business, but he also makes sure to post regularly on social media to keep in touch with customers online, despite his busy schedule. 

"I seriously don't want this culture to die. This culture is dying everywhere already," John shared in a video

"The most important moment [for me] would be that this culture is still running up to our generation."

Thanks to tech companies like Grab, local stalls and small businesses like Nyonya Heritage are able to grow and thrive with new digital opportunities, even during these challenging times

With digitalisation, businesses can now gain access to a wider pool of online customers, which means additional sales and more cash flow. Plus, contactless payment and delivery options make it possible for anyone to run their business online - the world is your oyster kuih!

Interested to become a Merchant-Partner with Grab? Click on GrabFood or GrabMart to sign up or get more information. 

Want to find out more about Nyonya Heritage and how Grab has helped them with their business? Watch the full video below:

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