There are people out there who from very young, have known what they want to do in life. For Selangor native Nur Hidayah Jeffri, 26, she knew from an early age that it would be cooking. The art of preparing food, discovering new recipes and seeing customers enjoy her cuisine, brings her excitement and satisfaction. She’s grateful that her passion has turned out to be her life’s calling.
Hidayah’s culinary journey was inspired by her grandmother, who taught her how to prepare ingredients, to wash meat properly and to cook! This is where the love for cooking and exploring recipes was instilled in the young Hidayah, and she spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen, learning the skills that would eventually serve her so well in her career.
After she completed her secondary school, the direction to take was crystal clear to Hidayah – to pursue a Diploma in Culinary Arts with the Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University College. During her studies, she worked at hotels and restaurants, to gain more and relevant experiences that would serve as her building blocks as she ventures into the culinary world.
Upon graduation, many of her friends went into full-time employment. But Hidayah decided to pursue her own path, to bring her cuisine to the world. As the eldest of three siblings, Hidayah had taken on the responsibility of looking after her family. The logical step would have been to secure a full-time employment, which comes with a stable, monthly paycheck. But Hidayah is tenacious in nurturing her enterprising streak, by starting up a food business in 2019, supplying food to the school where her youngest sibling was studying. More orders started coming in and soon Hidayah was supplying spaghetti and various other dishes regularly to the school canteen.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020 and the school was closed, she was left adrift, lost and worried about not being able to bring back enough income to support her family. But, with every cloud comes a silver lining. With a loan of just RM200 from her mother, she started Hidayah Kitchen.
“I started Hidayah Kitchen on my own and had to handle practically everything. Just to sell 20 packs of spaghetti, there was a lot of work involved – I had to buy the ingredients, manage costs, cook the food, pack the food, make sure the quantities were correct, and many other tasks. I also had to make the deliveries on my own, but for distant orders I would use Grab. Hidayah Kitchen was essentially a one-woman show, sometimes two when my mom helps me out!” quipped Hidayah.
Initially she did not see any profit, when sale was at 20 to 30 packs a day. She decided to focus on a few dishes in her menu, which would help with cost management. With less items, she did not need to purchase so many different ingredients and could cook several orders at once. This strategy paid off and she started to see a profit. Her sales eventually increased to between 30 to 50, or sometimes 60 packs a day.
Hidayah’s life would change in 2021, when she participated in the Program Mentor Wanita Cukup Berani MAGGI® programme which aims to empower its participants to take that step forward to be bold and try new things out of their comfort zone, be it in cooking or life in general.
Her aim in joining was to build up her confidence and upskill herself to improve her business. Little did she realise what fate had in store for her, for she was selected as one of the finalists for the reality TV show, Resipi Berani MAGGI®. The aim of this reality show is to further inspire others in their journey in making a positive difference for themselves, their family and the community. Hidayah and seven other finalists went through a series of challenges in business acumen, digital and cooking skills as well as mentorship sessions with three MAGGI® mentors – Actress and Brand Ambassador for MAGGI® CukupRasa, Datin Paduka Eina Azman; Director and Actress, Sheila Rusly; and Baker and Business Icon, Anne Idris.
Hidayah finally emerged as the grand champion, and received a seed capital of RM8,000 and an 8-week mentorship programme with Anne Idris.
“The empowering and mentorship journey with MAGGI® has helped me in sharpening my culinary skills, build my self-confidence and upscale my home-based business. I remember there was one segment with Eina Azman where we had to cook in front of people. Initially I was terrified but with their coaching, I overcame this fear and was able to do it. The program helped me a lot with my self-confidence,” says Hidayah.
Her commitment to continual self-improvement is reflected in her motto ‘The more you know, the more you grow’. “The more we explore, the more knowledge we get. We need to keep learning, to crave knowledge – go for classes, upskill yourself, and so on,” said Hidayah.
Hidayah was able to use the seed capital to upgrade her kitchen and purchase new cooking appliances and equipment. With the business knowledge gained from the mentors throughout the Program Mentor Wanita Cukup Berani MAGGI®, she rapidly expanded her business and saw a 25% increase in sales. Today, Hidayah Kitchen is doing well and can also be found on food apps such as FoodPanda and Heyho.
Achieving so much at such an early age, Hidayah has some valuable advice to impart to those who are looking to start their own businesses.
“First of all, get out of your comfort zone. Success does not come from being in the comfort zone,” she says. “Just get started. Be brave. There will also be setbacks and pressures. Not everyone can do it, and that’s ok.”
She also has some advice for those fearful of venturing out on their own. “I faced quite a few fears when I first started Hidayah Kitchen. How will I sell anything, and make a profit? Will there be any customers buying my food? If the customer complains the food isn’t tasty, how will I respond to the customer?”
“I overcame these fears with patience, and stopped myself from rushing into making decisions. Then, I work on Plan A, but I also have a plan B. I recommend others to do the same. If those don’t work, then there is always Plan C, Plan D…,” said Hidayah with a laugh.
She also emphasise on the importance of having a good role model. Hidayah shares, “My role model is my mother. She is a very strong person, especially in giving the best care to the family. She doesn’t know how to give up. She used to say, ‘If you think you have it hard, others have it harder!’.
Final word from Hidayah…. “We must put in effort until we become successful!”