While looking for candidates for my piece on entrepreneurs who’ve left their startups to return to a 9-5, I met a woman with a story that stood out to me. Her name is Adelyn Loo.
Via Messenger, she revealed a harrowing story of leaving her corporate job to look after her late husband who had a cancer relapse. Multiple attempts of returning to a 9-5 job were made after his passing, but she herself experienced physical ailments shortly after.
Already worried about her own health, the single mum then noticed that her kindergartener would bring home junk food from school.
She shared her concern, “Young kids are given junk and processed foods the moment they start eating solid foods. It’s one of the reasons why they are getting sick younger and younger.”
That was the tipping point, and Adelyn wondered how she could protect her son while also educating other parents on healthy eating. Suddenly, the dried fruits and granola she’d already been making at home sparked an idea.
Selling them could be her channel to advocate such a lifestyle, hence the birth of Nourish & Nibbs in 2015, a home-based business to sell dehydrated fruits and nuts snacks on Poptron.
Replacing Junk In Party Packs
Nourish & Nibbs began on a miniscule scale where products were sold on a pre-order basis.
To convince parents to switch from lollipops to dehydrated watermelons instead, she repackaged the snacks as kids’ party packs. Festive season packages were also made available to replace basketfuls of processed foods inside seasonal hampers.
Though party packs weren’t her main products, they were her driving force to run the business despite her lack of confidence in being an entrepreneur.
“Party packs kept me motivated because my priority and passion has always been nutritious food and healthy lifestyles for kids. I believe in starting them young with healthy foods and not junk,” confessed Adelyn.
The goody bags aren’t featured on her Poptron store now, but are still made depending on order requests.
The Only Ingredient Is Fruit
The dried fruits and nuts market in Malaysia is already saturated; I personally come across plenty at kiosks in malls. Adelyn shared that her stand out factor comes from the way her snacks are made which adheres to The Whole Foods Plant-Based lifestyle.
This lifestyle is not just about avoiding processed food, but also includes preparing it without sugar, oil, salt, or other food additives.
Using a food dehydrator, her snacks spend 8-24 hours dehydrating at low temperatures to preserve their nutrients. It makes them compliant with the raw food method too, where nutrients are not destroyed by heat during preparation.
“In Malaysia, there isn’t any brand that is producing snacks the way we are doing right now. Treats are either baked or roasted, and most dehydration methods may not fulfill the requirement for raw foods,” said Adelyn.
She further explained that Nourish and Nibbs’ core principle is authenticity in their snacks that may be difficult to find in other brands.
“The product may state ‘healthy and natural’ but you will find oil and sugar or salt further down in the ingredient list. Sometimes listed as names or jargon which are unfamiliar to us,” elaborated Adelyn.
For example, a popular Malaysian brand also selling dried fruits is Signature Market. When looking into the ingredients list for some of their products, though limited, they still have sugar in them.
While these small amounts of oil, salt, sugar and other ingredients may not matter much to many of us, those who are particular about cutting them out will be more drawn to Nourish & Nibbs.
Hence, Adelyn’s long-term goal for Nourish & Nibbs is to be seen as the go-to brand for authentic healthy snack providers in Malaysia. Her client base consists of parents, zero waste, and plant-based, vegan, and vegetarian communities.
A Dehydrated Harvest
Besides dried fruits and vegetables, Nourish & Nibbs also makes nuts and seeds, nut-based crackers, seeds based chips, and gluten-free cereals. These seeds require another step prior to dehydration, where they’re soaked for hours and require careful monitoring for them to “sprout”.
Sprouting is where nutrients are activated, and they’re either dehydrated to be sold on their own or used as ingredients for other snacks.
It’s a lengthy and laborious process to make the products alone, and Adelyn’s had her fair share of struggles, especially at the start. With only 1 dehydrator machine and still working a corporate job, all her time at home was spent making the snacks.
Early in the morning, she’d load up the dehydrator with a batch of fresh fruits. After work, it’s harvested and ready for a new tray to dehydrate while she’s asleep.
“The timing has to be calculated perfectly for the next batch to go into the dehydrator just in time. There are times I would miss it and 1 production slot was wasted,” shared Adelyn.
Upon hearing this, friends began donating their unused dehydrator machines to expand her production capacity.
Now, the single mother is no longer doing it alone. Her own mum was appointed chief of production while Adelyn handles the business side of Nourish & Nibbs and recipe development. For larger volume orders, part-timers are hired to help out.
After 6 years of running Nourish & Nibbs, Adelyn has grown into her role as an entrepreneur. For now, she has no plans to return to the 9-5 as running her startup gives her better flexibility to spend time with her 10-year-old.
“Perhaps one day when he is all grown up, I may consider the option of going back to corporate. But for now, I don’t have an exit strategy or plan to share,” she said.
Featured Image Credit: Adelyn Loo, founder of Nourish & Nibbs