- People Systems Consultancy
She’s not just a gold medallist – she also makes a mean pineapple tart.
In fact, opening a bakery has helped ASEAN Para Games 2017 tenpin bowling winner Noor Lizah Salman raise her income from an inconsistent RM550 a month in 2017 to a steady RM5,000 a month today – a figure that easily doubles during Hari Raya, her busiest period.
This year, orders have come in in the thousands for her specialties: cheese bangkit and pineapple tarts, and she also offers unique bakes like rainbow cookies and Oreo bangkit.
But things were not always so rosy for the 52-year-old owner of Kuala Lumpur’s Bonda Liezda bakery, who was left paralysed from the waist down after suffering from nerve damage at the age of 15.
She wed her husband, 53-year old Hashim Mahmud (who is also disabled) in 1994. The couple have two children – a son, aged 24, and a daughter, aged 18.
Noor Lizah spent most of her married life doing tailoring jobs to help the family make ends meet. She only discovered her two greatest hobbies, bowling and baking, after turning 40 – and quickly switched to selling tarts and shortbread from home instead.
By 2015, orders for her bakes were sufficient for her to consider opening her own bakery – but earnings turned out to be dismal for the first two years, as footfall was low and the baker was too shy to speak to customers or promote her items.
In an interview with Business Insider, she admitted to being “nervous and terrified” that the business would fail.
Eventually, however, Noor Lizah managed to build up a stable of regulars, and after attending an entrepreneurship skills development course run by Maybank, began using sales strategies like free samples and regular new products to attract customers.
“I realised there was a lack of bakeries making cookies catered to Malay tastes,” she said. “Malays usually prefer cookies and tarts that are distinctively sweeter, and most bakeries catering to the general public will not offer that, so I did.”
Since most bakeries did not offer traditional Malay cookies like kuih bangkit, she also decided to make these cookies – and add a modern twist to them, resulting in the bakery’s famous cheese bangkit and Oreo bangkit.
She also tweaked her offerings to captialise on trends, resulting in another bestseller: rainbow cookies.
The baker also started asking customers for feedback, and would use their comments to tweak her recipes.
Her newfound success funded the family’s first car (a Perodua Bezza), and they are now saving to upgrade from their current flat to a terrace house.
Noor Lizah’s husband also started working at the bakery, and the couple have even increased the number of employees from two to eight, Bernama reported. They’re even considering moving to a bigger store.
While it’s hard juggling between her family, the bakery, and bowling practice, Noor Lizah says her children are understanding and supportive, and even help out during the Raya period.
She’s also transformed into a confident woman who enjoys baking in front of her customers.
“When I see customers try my cookies, and hear their good feedback, it gives me joy,” she added.