Cooking Her Way Out Of Poverty

Norhazima binti Abdul Jalil was a young mother trying hard to make ends meet. 

While caring for her family, she also sold food in front of her house. She didn’t make much, about RM500 per month at best. Together with her husband’s income as a rubber tapper, it was hardly enough to survive.

“There were days I had to turn down requests from my children to join school programmes because I couldn’t afford to pay for it,” Norhazima shared. School supplies, nicer clothes and snacks were luxuries as the family did not have savings, let alone extras to give to their children. 

Norhazima making bowls of delicious noodles.

Thankfully, their basic needs for food and nourishment were always met. Norhazima was a good cook and she made every cent count.

“I love to cook and I will try food from elsewhere and come back and experiment with different ingredients,” she said. 

Giving others a taste of her passion 

“It has been my dream to own my own restaurant and my friends always encouraged me to try,” Norhazima explained when asked about the beginnings of her restaurant. She would occasionally try different recipes and invite small groups over to share a meal. Friends and family who tasted her food would seed the idea of a future eatery. 

Caption: Warung Romantik is tucked away in Kampung Pond Creek in Pendang, Kedah

However, Norhazima did not have any experience or know-how to start her business. 

It was then that she heard about the empowerNCER entrepreneurship training in Pendang district which is funded by Yayasan PETRONAS under its Program MEKAR (Memampankan Ekonomi Asas Rakyat) initiative. The program trainers were quick to spot her potential and enthusiasm. 

Very quickly, they helped her work on a business plan and provided the mentoring and training she needed. Within several weeks, she set up Warung Romantik Norhazima. 

Customers who visit the warung must try Norhazima’s Laksam and Kuey Teow Theng.

Today, if you happen to be taking a road trip along the West Coast of Malaysia, drop by Norhazima’s rustic restaurant, tucked away in the rubber plantations and be delighted by her home cooking.

She serves the famous laksam, a rice noodle dish with cylindrical noodles drenched with creamy coconut gravy and pounded fish served with a beautiful selection of local herbs and vegetables. Kuey teow theng, another favourite, is a type of rice noodle dish with a clear broth topped with fragrant spicy sambal. 

Personal growth and development 

Norhazima grew leaps and bounds in her confidence as a business owner. Within a few weeks of promoting her dishes on social media, customers tripled. 

She now generates almost 12 times more than what she used to earn. The steady income of about RM6000 per month has given her a great sense of security and accomplishment. The young mother beams with joy when she talks about giving her children special treats and being able to buy them school supplies when they need it. 

Caption: Norhazima’s warung being shared on social media bringing customers from near and far.  

“I am now able to hire one extra person to help me in the kitchen. I hope to empower more women and give them job opportunities in the future,” said Norhazima. “I also got my husband and son to help with food delivery orders,” the growing leader explained. 

When the pandemic hit and the Movement Control Order (MCO) was issued, Norhazima continued her food business via delivery orders and subsequently reopened for business when the restrictions eased. 

Caption: Norhazima is now able to hire an extra person at the warung as her business continues to grow. These job opportunities mean a lot to the women in the village.

Innovation and creativity continue to fuel her business. She has included different types of noodles to her menu – including a variety of snacks and drinks at her restaurant. 

With some capital in hand, Norhazima now plants chillies and kangkung as cash crops. She has saved enough from her combined ventures to purchase a car to grow her business. And this is just the start of her new journey…

Norhazima shares her story: 

Norhazima’s story may resonate with you, especially in this time of living through a pandemic. She had a passion and was given the opportunity and training to learn how to monetise it. Her success is not without sweat and toil, but it paid off. 

Norhazima’s business grew because of word of mouth as well as active promotion on social media. 

Do you know of similar stories like Norhazima’s? 

Comment below or tag the business below so we can all help to support local businesses.