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Kueh Ho Jiak: A Mother-Daughter Reunion That Turned Into A Sweet Business Opportunity


Consuming conventional kueh is one thing most individuals have fondly loved with their mother and father or grandparents.

However for 55-year-old Sandy Tan and her daughter, 31-year-old Elizabeth Chan, they might even say it was the glue that introduced them collectively.

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The 2 girls are the co-founders of Kueh Ho Jiak, which has discovered its declare to fame by placing a contemporary spin on old-school confectioneries.

They’re greatest identified for his or her signature vibrant ang ku kueh, made in a wide range of enjoyable shapes like flowers, fish, hearts and even cartoon characters.

Picture Credit score: DiscoverSG

Beginning out as a house enterprise again in 2011, their motivation was to make kueh interesting to kids in order that its tradition won’t fade away.

4 Generations Of Kueh Makers

The artwork of creating nonya kueh has been of their household for 4 generations, tracing again to the times when Sandy grew up in a kampung.

She describes her childhood to be enjoyable and filled with adventures, as she and her 10 siblings would cycle, catch guppies, and watch aeroplanes close to their house take off.

Sandy’s grandmother offered kueh from a meals cart within the 1930s, then handed it right down to Sandy’s mom.

Sandy began out serving to her mom with sundry duties like amassing dishes, and later discovered learn how to make just a few kinds of kueh when she was 13.

Kueh Ho Jiak Sandy Tan
Sandy (proper)

“Generally, I sneakily made some ondeh ondeh on the market [besides the kueh I made for my mum], in order that I may earn extra pocket cash,” she reminisces.

Regardless that many years had handed when she determined to revive her household’s commerce, Sandy was nonetheless a pure at selecting up the recipes once more from the web.

However, Elizabeth admits that studying learn how to make kueh from scratch was fairly difficult for her.

“The hours are very lengthy and it may be very tedious. [You also have to] maintain stirring the dough nonstop in order that it received’t get burnt,” she shares.

As she practiced underneath her mum’s steerage, changing into the fourth technology of kueh makers in her household, one factor Elizabeth discovered was that kueh are “very delicate”.

“Numerous endurance and energy is required. If they don’t seem to be ready effectively with love, they are going to spoil very simply.”

Kueh Ho Jiak Elizabeth Chan

A Household Reunion Turned Into A Household Enterprise

Sandy and Elizabeth credit score Kueh Ho Jiak for bringing them nearer and serving to them recognize one another extra.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t straightforward for them to construct the robust relationship they’ve now.

In an interview with The Royal Singapore, Elizabeth shared that her father was killed throughout a enterprise journey in China when she was solely one-year-old.

Abruptly having to grapple with this tragedy and her new life as a single mum, Sandy left to work in a on line casino in Australia to supply for her daughter.

Sandy Tan, Elizabeth Chan family photo
A household picture earlier than Elizabeth’s father handed away

Fortunately, Elizabeth’s grandmother was capable of assist handle her. However not having each of her mother and father round gave her a troubled childhood, and led her to turn out to be rebellious in her teenagers.

She dropped out of college at 14, however nonetheless managed to finish her ‘N’ and ‘O’ Ranges privately after she discovered the motivation to proceed finding out at 17.

It was solely when Elizabeth had a child just a few years later that Sandy stop her job and returned to Singapore.

[My mum told me] she felt responsible that she wasn’t by my facet all through my childhood. So she wished to return again to handle my daughter and provides her our greatest.

Elizabeth Chan, co-founder of Kueh Ho Jiak

The household was lastly reunited, and Sandy absolutely devoted herself to taking care of her granddaughter.

Kueh Ho Jiak founders
The ‘Kueh’ Household

Finally, when her granddaughter began attending preschool, she poured that free time into making kueh.

“Mum fell in love with making kueh once more. Every time she gave some to our household and pals, they’d order extra to reward to others, after which the recipients would begin to order from her too,” Elizabeth says.

Being “an outspoken and outgoing woman”, Sandy didn’t simply cease at mastering the standard recipe — she dreamed of making her personal model of vibrant but wholesome ang ku kueh.

cartoon character dessert ang ku kueh
Picture Credit score: Kueh Ho Jiak

To do that, she ditched the same old glutinous rice pores and skin and experimented with utilizing candy potatoes to make her personal dough.

It was no easy feat, as candy potatoes spoil simply in Singapore’s sizzling local weather.

“I nonetheless bear in mind how a lot dough and kueh she has thrown away over time to realize the usual we now have right this moment. It appears like an infinite quantity!” Elizabeth laughs.

Making Kueh Is A Spherical-The-Clock Job

Initially, Elizabeth helped to do Sandy’s kueh deliveries whereas she ran her personal curtain enterprise.

Juggling each was manageable at first, however as Kueh Ho Jiak’s orders grew, she realised it could quickly require her full dedication.

Giving up her personal enterprise was a troublesome determination, because it had been doing effectively for years. The earnings she earned from it was comfy sufficient that Sandy didn’t must work and will even afford to journey.

“I used to be at all times asking myself if I used to be ready to have a change of life-style and dealing surroundings. As I’ve a daughter now, the sudden lower of earnings and the uncertainty was one thing that held me again.”

It wasn’t straightforward — I took over a 12 months to ponder earlier than I made a decision to take the braveness to decide on one of many two. In the end, I felt that Kueh Ho Jiak was the better objective in my life.

Elizabeth Chan, co-founder of Kueh Ho Jiak

Ever since she took the plunge, her days have been packed from morning to nighttime, however Elizabeth believes the sacrifice is value it.

She begins the day by sending her daughter to high school and getting some train. Then she takes care of promoting, accounts, and conferences by way of the morning.

kueh ho jiak colourful ang ku kueh
Picture Credit score: Kueh Ho Jiak

“At midday my mum and I’ll begin cooking the substances from scratch, and within the night we’ll mould the kueh, often till 11pm.”

When it was simply the 2 of them, Sandy and Elizabeth may solely afford two hours of shut-eye earlier than they bought again to the grind.

They needed to begin steaming all the kueh at 1am, with the intention to carry them to their stall at 6am earlier than opening time.

Kueh Ho Jiak opens their stall from 7.30am to 2pm, however their cabinets are generally emptied by midday.

In the previous few years, they’ve elevated their manpower in order that they’ll save extra time for relaxation.

Studying From A Expensive Mistake

After operating Kueh Ho Jiak from house for a while, they determined to attempt bringing their creations to a bodily store.

They moved into Ci Yuan Hawker Centre in Hougang in 2015. Nevertheless, it didn’t final lengthy as the value of hire “virtually doubled” after their first 12 months.

That they had higher luck once they took their second shot in 2017, opening a stall in Tanjong Pagar Plaza Meals Centre that is still robust until right this moment.

Kueh Ho Jiak Tanjong Pagar Plaza Food Centre Singapore
Kueh Ho Jiak at Tanjong Pagar Plaza Meals Centre

Alongside the way in which, additionally they needed to be taught a pricey lesson once they tried to develop down a distinct route.

In 2019, they opened a café outlet at East Village in Bedok. However this turned out to be “a mistake”, in response to Elizabeth.

Regardless that it obtained a crowd on weekends, clients that walked by way of their doorways on weekdays had been “very scattered”.

Finally, they felt that they might now not justify bearing the rental prices for simply two good days of enterprise every week.

The failed enterprise value them “6-digit figures”, however Elizabeth considers it as a part of the expertise.

I assume that’s the lifetime of an entrepreneur. Nevertheless, in the event you love what you’re doing and have a ardour for it, you’d positively discover a method to break by way of.

Elizabeth Chan, co-founder of Kueh Ho Jiak

For them, the breakthrough was understanding their viewers higher, and scaling again to deal with issues that labored.

kueh workshop singapore
Elizabeth teaches a kueh-making workshop

Whereas serving kueh in a café setting didn’t fly, that they had a powerful base of standard followers on-line and at their hawker stall.

On prime of that, additionally they obtained a wholesome demand for hands-on experiences once they organise kueh-making workshops.

40 To 50 Per Cent Extra On-line Orders Throughout ‘Circuit Breaker’

Regardless of just a few bumps within the highway, Kueh Ho Jiak gained loads of recognition that affirmed their relentless efforts.

One of the vital notable achievements was being chosen to serve their kueh for President Halimah Yacob on the Istana.

Kueh Ho Jiak Istana
Kueh Ho Jiak on the Istana

However irrespective of how far they’ve gone, the smallest shows of appreciation nonetheless imply the world to Sandy and Elizabeth.

“Seeing the grins on clients’ faces after they eat our kueh at all times makes us really feel very liked.”

Even after the COVID-19 outbreak hit, clients continued to pour out their assist on-line.

Whereas most F&B companies have struggled through the ‘circuit breaker’ interval, Kueh Ho Jiak surprisingly noticed gross sales enhance by “40 to 50 per cent”.

nonya kueh
Picture Credit score: Kueh Ho Jiak

Clients have particularly been eager to ship containers of kueh to their mother and father whereas they’re unable to go to throughout this time.

“Each time I kind out their personalised messages, I really feel so touched by what they’ve written — asking their mother and father to be good, keep house, and so forth,” Elizabeth says.

“She By no means Offers Up No Matter How Robust Life Was”

After every thing they’ve been by way of prior to now, having the ability to begin a enterprise together with her mom has been actually particular to Elizabeth.

“The extra we labored collectively, the extra strengths we began seeing in one another, and the extra we began to know one another.”

“It’s like every day I’m discovering and piecing up lacking jigsaws from my childhood [when she wasn’t with me],” she says.

Kueh Ho Jiak founders Sandy Tan and Elizabeth Chan
Picture Credit score Kueh Ho Jiak

In fact, at all times being in concord each at work and at house is “simpler mentioned than achieved”. Nevertheless, they’ve discovered that an important factor is having the ability to compromise and take a step again when opinions differ.

All through the journey of Kueh Ho Jiak, Elizabeth has continually been impressed by Sandy’s ardour and willpower.

She by no means offers up irrespective of how powerful life was. She persevered in every thing she did.

Even supposing my dad handed on once I was very younger, she didn’t surrender on life, she was very constructive, she labored very arduous for the household.

Even when she began making kueh, she failed umpteen instances, however she [never stopped developing them] to attain the style we now have right this moment.

Elizabeth Chan, co-founder of Kueh Ho Jiak

The mother-and-daughter duo have been advised that they had been “loopy” to place in a lot effort when they’re solely promoting kueh in a hawker centre, not a lodge.

“Nevertheless it has by no means stopped us from creating one thing totally different, as a result of we take satisfaction in what we do,” Elizabeth says.

To get a style of their labour of affection, go to Kueh Ho Jiak right here.

Featured Picture Credit score: Kueh Ho Jiak


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