3 Successful Malaysian Women Share The Real Struggles And Joys Of Being Food Entrepreneurs

These women are an inspiration for many out there who dream of doing the same.

Cover image via MAGGI (Provided to SAYS)

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For many entrepreneurs, self-confidence can be a challenge, especially when they're just starting out

As they go through their entrepreneurship journeys and their business expands, their self-confidence usually grows over time. But for some, the lack of self-confidence remains a constant challenge.

This can be a problem, as in addition to needing a lot of effort, faith, and resources, self-belief is also a critical building block for a successful business. Running your own business comes with a whole slew of challenges, and if you don't have the tenacity and confidence to handle them, you could be setting yourself up for failure.

Aiming to specifically help female entrepreneurs, Resipi Berani MAGGI is a reality series that puts participants through culinary and entrepreneurship-focused challenges

From left to right: Nur Syahidah, Noraslinda, and Suzaimi Zahari, the Top 3 finalists of 'Resepi Berani MAGGI Season 2'.

Image via MAGGI (Provided to SAYS)

Resipi Berani MAGGI is a culmination of the Program Mentor Wanita Cukup Berani MAGGI (PMWCBM). Deeply rooted in MAGGI CukupRasa's 'Tak Kenal Tak Cinta' spirit, it aims to encourage women to step out of their comfort zones to try something new — be it in cooking, in life, or in business.

With Season 2 of Resipi Berani MAGGI having recently wrapped up, the three winners shared about the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, starting and running their own business, dealing with failures and setbacks, and what drives them forward.

For first place winner Nur Syahidah, low self-esteem has been a lifelong struggle, as she has always been embarassed of her Blepharophimosis syndrome

The syndrome is a rare developmental condition that affects the eyelids and ovary. Common symptoms include narrow eyes, droopy eyelids, an upward fold of skin of the inner lower eyelids, and widely set eyes, all of which cause difficulty in fully opening one's eyes and may affect quality of vision.

"I have been struggling with insecurities for many years because of my physical appearance. I have since learned to love myself more, be bold, and stand tall! My physical appearance should not define my worth. I am actually grateful to be blessed with this appearance because wherever I go, I will naturally stand out in a crowd and people recognise me!" shared the 32-year-old.

Growing up in a family that runs a catering business, Syahidah always longed to kickstart her own business

Throughout her 20s, she worked in various roles, ranging from assistant lecturer to secretariat management. Then, in 2019, Syahidah and her husband decided to move back to her hometown in order to care for her ailing parents.

That's when she finally took the long-awaited step out of her comfort zone and became a home-based food entrepreneur. She set up NSA Cookies, selling chocolate chip cookies and biskut sarang semut.

"The path to starting your own business isn't always smooth. There are many roadblocks toward that path. But the right time will come, so all you need to do is be willing to try and never give up.

"I always believe that entrepreneurship is all about resilience. Believing in what you can do is important. Keep up that entrepreneurial spirit to stay motivated for the long run!" said the Kulim native.

With the aim of improving her self-confidence and gaining new skills to expand her business, she signed up for PMWCBM, where she attended the Bengkel Wanita Cukup Berani MAGGI to learn about business acumen, digital tools, and cooking skills

When asked how she benefitted from the programme, Syahidah shared that she has learned many entrepreneurial tips from Anne Idris, one of the PMWCBM mentors. Anne taught her about food costing, pricing strategy, and cost optimisation, so that Syahidah will be able to garner a good profit.

Her resilience and determination bagged her first place in the Resipi Berani MAGGI competition, winning a seed capital of RM8,000 and an eight-week mentorship programme with Anne.

She recently introduced her new ready-to-eat product, Rendang Dendeng Daging, under a new brand, Syahidah Food. She also has plans to expand her reach to neighbouring countries like Singapore and Indonesia by 2025.

Meanwhile, second place winner Suzaimi Zahari is a fairly seasoned entrepreneur who owns a popular chicken rice shop in Kuala Terengganu

The 38-year-old mother of two runs Mek's Chicken Rice, a business she inherited from her mother in the early 2010s. Famous for her chicken rice which comes with fresh orange juice for only RM7, she has not revised the price since 2012!

Her business was eventually recognised by the Kementerian Perdagangan Dalam Negeri dan Hal Ehwal Pengguna (KPDNHEP) as a Fair Price Shop (Kedai Harga Patut) in 2021.

"You can ask most people in Kuala Terengganu, and they would know about Mek's Chicken Rice!" quipped Suzaimi.

"The restaurant is part of my soul. It goes without saying that I learned all about food, cooking, and business from this restaurant. Watching my mum run her very own restaurant showed me that anyone can follow their dreams and dream BIG too!" she added.

However, her success hasn't stopped her from wanting to keep learning and continuously upskill herself to further improve her food business

When asked about how she handles a given challenge, Suzaimi commented, "Owning and running my own business comes with satisfaction and sacrifice. It can be overwhelming and exhausting. We should expect hurdles at every turn on the road to success.

"Leverage on every obstacle as a learning opportunity and you may need to even steer your journey. But stay committed to your end goal! My goal for Mek's Chicken Rice is very clear – to be the most well-known chicken rice in Terengganu!"

With the aspiration of expanding her business and opening more branches of Mek's Chicken Rice, she embarked on the PMWCBM journey to sharpen her entrepreneurial and digital marketing skills, all in the hopes of taking one step closer to achieving her dream.

Suzaimi eventually emerged as the second place winner of Resipi Berani MAGGI Season 2, taking home a seed capital of RM5,000.

In sharing advice to other entrepreneurs, she emphasised the importance of staying motivated

"Of course, in the early days of your business, there's a lot of effort as well as time and financial investment. And we may only reap the success much later, so we need to persevere. I am a firm believer that getting into the right mindset and dreaming big right from the start is a great way to define a clear direction of where you want to go and what you wish to achieve.

"There were many times when I wanted to give up. But I am fortunate to have tremendous support from my husband and family. They have been with me throughout this journey. They are indeed my greatest inspiration and motivation.

"Everyone is motivated and inspired by different things in life. Understanding what motivates you can make the difference between success and failure!" she shared enthusiastically.

As for third place winner Noraslinda, entrepreneurship was something she unexpectedly stumbled upon

Growing up, she never saw herself as an entrepreneur. Even today, she still holds down a full-time job as a clerk in a government agency while selling sandwiches and running a small-scale catering business on weekends. Noraslinda is a true wonder woman, managing her time between work, family commitments, and fulfilling her orders.

The 34-year-old shared, "When I first started my side hustle selling sandwiches, I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew that I had this drive for extra income and doing what I like most — cooking.

"Many asked how I manage my side business alongside my full-time job. I acknowledged that I don't have the luxury of quitting a full-time job to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams. Juggling between both was never easy.

"But having said that, I believe that an entrepreneurial journey should not be daunting and it doesn't always mean quitting your day job. I would suggest to start small and learn along the way, before building up to something bigger."

With her love for art and creativity, the mother of four goes the extra mile by personalising each of her sandwich boxes with hand-drawn doodles

"I am no Picasso! But, I am happy that this little hobby of mine can bring cheer to others through my business," Noraslinda said with a laugh.

After attending an online workshop as part of PMWCBM, Noraslinda recently began to promote her food business via social media

She went on to claim third place in Resipi Berani MAGGI, which earned her a seed capital of RM5,000. With the knowledge and experience gained, she plans to further expand her business by introducing new items on her menu and eventually open a café in Kuala Selangor with her husband.

"Saya cukup berani! I will achieve my goal one day!," Noraslinda declared confidently.

These three amazing entrepreneurs are true examples of what we can accomplish when we have the confidence to try something new and upskill ourselves.

And along the way, they've become an inspiration for many out there who dream of doing the same.

In the same way, MAGGI CukupRasa aims to support women in preparing a variety of delicious meals for their families despite their hectic schedules and time constraints — allowing them to further experiment with various types of dishes, enhancing the taste of the meals, or even improving their culinary business.

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