Restaurant owner Zenda Ng knew she needed to do something to help when the white flag movement started gaining traction a few weeks ago.
Ng is the founder of Jom Makan Place, an eatery that has been around for 14 years. Last year, Ng launched a new brand called Nasi Lemak Dateen by Jom Makan Place.
Under the auspices of this brand, Ng started an initiative a month ago where she delivers 30 packets of nasi lemak a day to families in need anywhere in the Klang Valley for a total of five days.
Her aim? To get them to sell the nasi lemak, make some money and kick-start an entrepreneurial spirit.
“Our objective is to give people in need an opportunity to earn an income through their own efforts and eventually be independent, so they don’t need sponsorship or handouts.
“So we will deliver 30 packets of halal, vegan nasi lemak to them for free for five consecutive days.
“The market price of the nasi lemak is RM2, so if they sell all the nasi lemak packets, they can get RM300 in five days,” says Ng.
The people who participate in this initiative are first vetted and interviewed by Ng, although she says that poverty has been so hard-hitting that she doesn’t judge a book by its cover.
“We know that even people who live in nicer homes are facing financial difficulties now, so we don’t judge when we deliver to their homes. Everybody needs different kinds of encouragement in their lives,” reasons Ng.
Ng and her team also provide mentorship to the families on how best to sell the products. She is cognisant of the fact that when selling nasi lemak, location is crucial. Which is why if the first location chosen by a family does not do well, Ng hits the reset button, meaning that the next day is treated as day one.
“If the location doesn’t work out, we can start again afresh and disregard the first day. Our motive is to help them, as long as they have the initiative to do this,” she says.
Once the five days are up, Ng says the families are free to use the money they have earned to start their own businesses selling home-cooked food or anything else.
But Ng doesn’t just abandon the families if they need more support after this. The families have the option to continue getting nasi lemak packets from the brand delivered to them every day at a cost of RM1.30 per packet (Ng doesn’t make money from this and says the amount doesn’t cover the cost of making and delivering the food).
Since starting this programme, Ng has helped nearly 20 families. She says she is extremely happy that they are able to make some money from this and ease their daily burdens, and cites a success story of an impoverished single mother as one of the reasons she continues to do this.
“We had a single mother who did so well during the five days that she started buying 80 packets of nasi lemak from us every day. She sells it on the roadside until 9am and if she cannot finish selling, she will then cycle to another location. She sells out every day, and now feels so motivated that she has started selling Nyonya kuih as well!
“This is what we want, because donations don’t last long. But by getting a head start selling nasi lemak like this, we hope it serves as a model for people to start their own small businesses,” says Ng.