Kaya is one of the most nostalgic spreads for me. There was always a jar of it in my fridge, and when I left for college having a plate of kaya and butter toast with my friends to start the day was always a treat to get up early.
Corryn craved a good Kaya from Hainan that wasn’t too sweet and stayed true to its rich coconut and caramel flavor. During her downtime as the pandemic put her career on hold, her experiences making kaya led her to start her own business, Quack Kaya.
When planes can’t fly
Corryn was a freelance tour guide, which meant her salary depended solely on whether or not she had a reservation. Needless to say, there were no jobs available when the pandemic ended travel and she could not generate income.
“I wasn’t too worried initially because we’ve been through SARS before and thought it would be similar, so I also took this as a break to spend time with the family,” Corryn told Vulcan Post.
Remaining optimistic, Corryn took advantage of this period to indulge in new hobbies, cycling and photography being the most notable.
However, as the pandemic spread, she realized that COVID-19 was so much more serious than SARS, and concern began to set in. “Now I’m just trying to keep my hopes up and find a way that might work,” she added.
She started to think about business ideas like selling luxury goods, but none of them really suited her.
Eventually she decided to try making kaya, seeing that she has always had a connection to cooking and baking, and especially loved sweet foods, a kaya business just clicked for Corryn. Thus, Quack Kaya was born in June 2021.
Stop planning and start doing
While the heavy infusion of pandan in kayas on the market today is desired by many and a hallmark of Nyonya’s kaya, Corryn wanted a different option. She felt that there was a noticeable gap in the market for the good Hainan kaya.
“It was one of the main reasons we decided to create our own,” said Corryn.
Before selling the kaya, R&D had to take place. Hayley, who takes care of marketing and design as the daughter of the family and “the most tech-savvy in the house,” said their fridge was filled to the brim with kaya of unimaginable flavors. Hence the creation of the matcha kaya variant of Quack Kaya.
Quack Kaya also differentiates itself by using duck eggs in its products, which is less common (in KL) but far from a new idea, according to the team. “Duck eggs are seen as a bit of a luxury and adding them to our kaya provides that added value,” Corryn explained.
Duck eggs embody a richer flavor thanks to their yolk / white ratio which helps make a creamier and fuller kaya.
Friends and neighbors made up the majority of their lab rats; the mother-daughter duo took all of their opinions very seriously. Until pre-launch, anxiety filled them, wondering if they should have done more research before looking for paying customers.
“But looking back, a lot of our improvements couldn’t have been made without the fact that we started selling. It’s just impossible to think of every scenario that can happen until you decide to just stop planning and start doing, ”explained Hayley.
Set prices well
Priced at RM12.80 a jar (no promotions), Quack Kaya’s products can be quite expensive, as convenience store products cost at least half that price.
“We have a high price for our products because of the time taken, the packaging, the more expensive ingredients, as well as the new concept,” the team explained.
Unlike the factory-made kaya, Corryn makes its products by hand and in small batches. This means that their production rate tends to only produce up to 20 pots of kaya every 2 hours.
Another factor that increases the cost is the use of glass jars as the primary packaging, along with duck eggs which are also more expensive than chicken eggs.
“Apart from that, our target market is also teens and young adults who don’t exactly view local food as special or fun. By mixing different flavors, we are able to capture the interest of a younger audience, but it also generates costs, ”they shared.
All of the factors mentioned are business costs that add up, which does not give Quack Kaya a high profit margin in the end. Despite this, the family managed to sell around 140 pots of kaya from a combination of online and offline sales.
Corryn’s goal is to eventually open her own café with a unique concept that she is currently developing.
When the tourism industry finally recovers from the pandemic, Corryn aims to maintain and transform Quack Kaya from a simple hobby to a real career. This is all the more true since she has to take care of a family, where Hayley will soon go to university.
“But if, knock on wood, the business doesn’t generate enough income, I will have to go back to a day job,” Corryn explained.
- You can read more about Quack Kaya here.
- You can read more about the other startups we’ve covered here.
Image Credit Featured: Corryn Kum, Founder of Quack Kaya
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