Litte Nonya’s Cookies Sells Over 40K Boxes Of CNY Bakes Annually
Little Nonya’s Cookies is a small side business that founder Anthony Tan started 14 years ago in college.
Together with her mother, they baked pineapple pies and other treats in their home kitchen during the Chinese New Year period.
Their customers were mostly family and friends, and they were making “a few thousand dollars” in sales each year during this festive peak season.
Following this positive response, the mother-son duo decided to sell their products in stroller stands. Over the years, it has since become one of the dominant baking brands during Chinese New Year.
In this interview, we spoke to Anthony to find out how he took Little Nonya’s Cookies from a side business to a full-fledged bakery business.
Sells more than 40,000 boxes in 2 months each year
Little Nonya’s Cookies draws inspiration from over three generations of Peranakan’s food heritage, and most of its baking innovations stand out by mixing traditional cooking with viral food trends.
According to Anthony, his grandmother lived next door to a Peranakan family. She had learned Peranakan’s cooking skills from her neighbors and passed them on to her daughter (Anthony’s mother), who then passed them on to Anthony himself.
Anthony and his mother produced cookies from their home kitchen every Chinese New Year and started selling stroller stands.
Business grew from word of mouth, after people tried their cookies and recommended them to family and friends.
“We are well known for giving samples to our Raffles Xchange stroller stand,” he laughed.
One of their pivotal moments was when Takashimaya approached them to open a store at their annual Chinese New Year Fair.
As part of his sales strategy, Anthony asked potential customers if they had tried their cookies, after sharing with them that Little Nonya’s Cookies has been featured in several newspapers, magazines and websites.
Every time they say ‘no’ then it will ask them to ‘try to find out’. This is how he gets random passers-by to try his products and ultimately convert them into customers.
He has also led live baking sessions at the Takashimaya Fair and will offer several trays of fresh cookies for shoppers to taste.
To date, Little Nonya’s Cookies has been invited to party fairs in Takashimaya, Raffles Xchange, Junction 8, and more.
Despite the high demand, the 38-year-old shared that it was initially difficult for them as they could only produce a limited amount of baked goods in a home kitchen.
In order to develop, it started to work with foreign factories in Malaysia and Indonesia to achieve volume.
At last count, Little Nonya’s Cookies has sold over 40,000 boxes of treats in just an average of two months a year.
So far, he has pumped S $ 100,000 to S $ 200,000 into the business and broke even in just two years.
Why he made it a full time job
When Anthony ran Little Nonya’s Cookies as a side business, he held a full-time project management role in the hospitality industry.
Specifically, he worked with his friend, providing chandeliers and customizing lighting for hotels.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the business. Due to Malaysia’s lockdown during Phase 1 of the economy reopening, its workers were unable to enter Singapore for work.
When Phase 2 arrived, his friend decided to end his struggling lighting business.
This presented the opportunity for Anthony to focus all of his attention on his side and he decided to run Little Nonya’s Cookies full time in August of last year.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Anthony had previously received numerous requests from customers asking if they were selling their cookies.
Unfortunately, he had to refuse them because they “didn’t have the capacity” because it was only him and his mother who worked on the company.
From Pushcart stalls to flagship store
Little Nonya’s cookies were previously only available during seasonal celebrations via their stroller stands at Raffles Xchange and Novena Square.
Anthony shares that Raffles Xchange is his best performing outlet as they’ve been around for about eight years. In fact, the stroller stand can sell more than 10,000 bottles of cookies in a single Chinese New Year.
Meanwhile, 40% of orders come from its Raffles Xchange point of sale, while the rest is split between the online platform and the Novena Square booth.
With their flagship store in Changi, customers can now shop for Little Nonya’s Cookies treats year-round.
Based on their formula for success, Anthony attributes it to their low prices.
At the Takashimaya Chinese New Year show in recent years, they were easily one of the cheapest brands.
“If you get a bundle of six, it only costs $ 90. This works out to $ 15 a bottle. We are not earning a lot, but we are going in volume ”, he explained.
Original green pea cookies with unique flavors
Little Nonya cookies have 23 varieties in total – 15 of its items are staples and the rest are seasonal.
The best-selling item is their Prosperity Pineapple Pies, followed by Lucky Almonds and Green Pea Cookies.
When they started, Lucky Amonds and Green Pea Cookies were their stronghold – many people know them for both of these creations.
In fact, he was the one who invented Green Pea Cookies. To highlight its popularity, it is currently out of stock on their website.
On the other hand, their love letters (Money Egg Rolls) and kueh bangkit are traditionally made using a charcoal oven – they roast them over a charcoal fire.
All of these goodies are made from Nonya recipes, and are made in their Indonesian factory run by loved ones.
Anthony told us that even though we are only two weeks away from Chinese New Year, they are reaching liquidation as customers have started ordering since December of last year.
This year, they are offering a range of nine new pastries such as lychee and pineapple pies.
For the lychee-licey pineapple pie fusion, they experimented with grape, honeydew, and other fruity flavors, but found that the lychee accord worked best.
“We need to come out with new flavors every year to satisfy our corporate clients,” said Anthony.
Some of the unthinkable concoctions they came up with included MaMa LaLas (mala butter cookies) and TomTom Yummy Muruku (tom yum flavored muruku).
By introducing more items throughout the year, they started to become an everyday cookie brand.
However, many of their clients are still unaware of this fact. That’s why they work hard to make Little Nonya’s Cookies more than just a “Chinese New Year’s mark”.
Now their next step is to venture into nyonya cuisine, like nyonya acar or nyonya dumplings, to complement their cookies.
To accommodate this expansion, Anthony said they are considering moving to a larger space.
Featured Image Credit: Little Nonya’s Cookies
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