Baby photographer prepares healthy snacks for sale during pandemic
When the pandemic started last year, baby and family photographer Asther Lau didn’t expect things to get so bad.
“I thought if I was careful and had strict SOPs in place, I could still serve my clients,” says Lau, a Sarawakian who lives in Petaling Jaya.
“Even though it was not possible to do my shoots outdoors, I could still do them in the comfort and safety of my studio,” she says.
“But when the situation worsened and the number of cases increased, the management of my studio building completely banned visitors,” she says.
Lau reveals that she still had requests for consultations for maternity and newborn sessions throughout recovery and conditional OBS, although the numbers have dropped significantly from pre-pandemic days.
“But I had to be selective,” she says.
The health and safety of her family was a major concern and a priority.
“My mother has lupus, my husband has high blood pressure and episodes of irregular heartbeat, and my daughter is only 12 years old. I myself am a thyroid patient. So we’re sort of in the high risk category and can’t afford to succumb to what was then the unknown Covid disease, ”she said.
Lau, who has worked in the photography business for 13 years, reveals that she was only able to earn two months total of her usual income last year.
Her household income has also been affected as her husband, who runs a DIY business, was unable to make it to customers’ homes during the pandemic.
Lau knew she had to pivot. She decided to start selling homemade food, including Sarawak specialties cooked by her mother, in their neighborhood.
“It was a huge success with our neighbors and we could at least support our daily expenses with the winnings. But it was a lot of work, ”she says.
Lau even started baking and selling buttermilk cookies and banana cakes in his neighborhood.
But the profit margin was too low to survive, she said.
Because she was involved in rescuing and rehousing stray animals in the neighborhood, Lau got to know many pet owners. She decided to try making pet food and snacks – dehydrated pet treats, homemade pet cookies – for sale, and bought a dehydrator.
But she found that there were already so many new players in the pet food business and realized that this was not a feasible option, so she was stuck with the equipment that she had bought and no business plan.
Lau says what she is selling was a “chance find” and that she “underestimated” it at first, because it was “just something that she and her family personally consume.”
“I decided to use the dehydrator to make dehydrated fruit for my family because I’ve always loved eating dried fruit and it’s hard to find good quality without preservatives,” she says.
“Before, I had to drive a lot, pick up my daughter for school and I couldn’t get my meals on time, and I kept a bottle of my dried fruit snacks in the car that I have. tried and realized they were so good, and healthy too! ” she laughs.
“They’re a great pick-me-up, especially on stressful days,” she says. “And I suddenly realized this was a business idea to explore.”
It was November 2020 and she decided to make the most of the Christmas season and start selling dehydrated fruit treats in Christmas wrappers as gifts.
Since she was also very fond of recycling at home, Lau decided to use glass jars as there aren’t many recycling centers that accept them, unlike paper, plastic or aluminum cans.
She started by cleaning and sterilizing her own huge collection of empty jars at home, decorated them with a Christmas theme and filled them with dehydrated fruit and started selling them in her neighborhood again.
The feedback from his neighbors was very encouraging.
“Feeling motivated, I worked on making better treats, adjusting the size and shape for better production quality,” she says.
From a logo designed by herself, she decided to invest in her branding and hired a professional designer to produce her logo and labels.
In January 2021, she officially launched Jari Treats. Its treats include cinnamon apples, ginger oranges, dehydrated mangoes, and dehydrated pineapples, but there are also seasonal fruits such as persimmons. She is currently doing R&D and hopes to have more products in the future, including vegetables and other seasonal fruits.
Lau says his treats appeal to a large target market – from energetic millennials who are constantly on the move and need snacks to keep their energy levels up, to housewives looking for healthy snacks for their families, to those looking for freebies. healthy and thoughtful. for their loved ones whom they cannot see during the pandemic.
Most of her customers are from Klang Valley, but some have ordered her treats sent to Penang and Johor, for which she uses a delivery service.
A family matter
While Lau does most of the production work personally, her mother and daughter help prepare, slice, and wash the fruit, and her husband helps with deliveries as well as buying crates of the fruit.
She admits that there are many challenges to starting a new business during the pandemic.
“Food is a very dynamic and trendy industry. It takes consistent marketing to maintain sales, ”she says.
She is also concerned about the current lockdown and its impact on her family and business.
“We are worried and don’t know if we can cover our overhead costs,” she said.
“On the one hand, more and more people tend to want to send gifts to their loved ones that they cannot meet or visit. On the other hand, people spend more prudently in uncertain times, when the cost of raw materials and operations is constantly increasing, so the price of products has to be fair, ”she said, adding that she got certification from the Department of Health and a typhoid jab which is a requirement in the food handling industry.
Lau also recently signed a lease for more workspace in commercial land.
“It’s not a store but a bigger space with a bigger kitchen and more packing and storage space. We hope to be able to increase our production and sales, ”she said.
“Healthy eating is the trend now, even more so during the pandemic.
“Rather than having processed snacks with lots of sugar, salt, artificial flavors and preservatives, I hope to encourage people to have healthy snacks without artificial flavors, preservatives and no added salt or sugar.” she concludes.