While visiting the third edition of Artbox Malaysia last month, I came across quite a few interesting vendors. There was Hey Cyann (which offers jagua tattoos), Azloft (which offers permanent jewellery), and Theta Tarot (which does tarot reading).
But one vendor that was memorable was Lily’s Homemade. Why? Because one of my friends managed to barter an exchange with them, one hotdog for another. (This isn’t their business model, it was a spur of the moment thing.)
It was enough to spark my curiosity though, and made me do a little more research on them. Which led me to learn that they’re a gluten-free, keto-friendly, and kid-friendly sausage brand. One where “even the pickiest young food critic would beg for more,” as its co-founders put it.
One challenge after another
It all started with a retrenchment. A few years ago, Sam Hammett lost his corporate job and was figuring out where to go from there. “I needed to do something and since I love food, I decided to open a restaurant,” he stated.
Simple enough, right? After all, the saying goes that you should follow your passions. So that’s what Sam did by starting Lily’s Restaurant, an eatery selling wood-fired pizza topped with homemade cured meat.
This includes smokey bacon, pepperoni with a salty crunch, and Italian meatballs that were heavy on the fennel seasoning.
It was a hit with the locals in Puchong, they shared.
But then reality came knocking on their door, and forced them to start anew.
All for the sake of their daughter
As any entrepreneur would know, running a business means you aren’t subjected to the usual 40-hour work week. Instead, you work longer hours.
For Sam and Vicky, they were working 14 hours a day for six days a week. It didn’t help that they were understaffed as well.
“It’s the kind of thing that you hear people say in the F&B industry, but you always think you can do it or do it better,” Sam confided. “Then you start and get your ass kicked, and you come back down to earth with a hard bump.”
Their reason for this change in direction was their daughter, Lily, whom the restaurant was made for. She was less than two years old at the time, and the 14-hour work days prevented the couple from truly participating in her growth.
Hence, for the sake of their family, they made the hard choice of closing down the restaurant.
There’s (usually) a silver lining in every misfortune
Speaking frankly to us, the couple shared that by that time, they were left with RM3,000 in the bank account and the mortgage was due in 10 days.
“It was basically, ‘What can I do with the knowledge I have and the equipment we own?’” Sam stated. “Sausages were the only thing I could do and could be made at home.”
It also helped that before that, they already received market validation.
During the days of Lily’s Restaurant, Vicky suggested that they start selling fresh sausages as well. To prove there was demand, she made a Facebook post about it. This led them to receive orders for 30kg of sausages the next day.
With that in mind, the couple got to work and pivoted the business to become Lily’s Homemade—a brand specialising in making gluten-free, keto-friendly, and kid-friendly sausages.
A family trade reborn in a new age
It’s been seven years since Lily’s Homemade began. And the brand has stuck with its commitment to being gluten-free, keto-friendly, and “kid-friendly”.
“My idea was simple: There were no sausages that I felt 100% safe to feed Lily at the time. I’m sure a lot of parents are like me, so there must be a market for our homemade sausages,” Vicky said.
Aside from Sam’s passion for cooking, you could say he was born into the field.
You see, Sam’s great-great-grandfather used to run a butcher shop in London. “You could see that the fresh meat and sausage business was popular even then,” he shared, referring to the photographs he sent us.
So in a sense, Lily’s Homemade is Sam’s way of following in his great-great-grandfather’s footsteps.
Growing into their porky niche
Initially a home-based business, the brand has since moved to larger spaces. In 2021, they officially moved to a factory which is their HQ. Based in Puchong, it’s being run by five full-time staff members.
Staying true to its roots, Lily’s Homemade still serves an abundance of sausages. They come in a variety of flavours too, such as Bacon and Cheese (RM35), Pork and Apple (RM35), Classic Italian (RM33), Tikka Masala (RM35), and Cranberry and Red Wine (RM39).
Aside from that, they also offer other kinds of meat like streaky bacon, ham slices, luncheon meat, sandwich slices, meatballs, burger patties, nuggets, and pizzas.
If you’re unsure of what to get or like surprises, you could consider Lily’s Blind Box (RM200). It features a mixture of different items that weigh about 2.5kg together.
A five-year plan in the works
While Lily’s Homemade started out of necessity, Sam and Vicky agreed that they have no regrets in closing down the restaurant. “We got the flexibility we hoped for.”
They shared that they still work about 14 hours a day, but it’s a more relaxed way of working. The shift enabled them to juggle time more easily, which allowed them to grow their family to include a younger brother for Lily too.
At the same time, this gave them the opportunity to launch Didi’s Hotdog after their son. Keeping in mind the large Muslim population in Malaysia, Didi’s Hotdog serves pork-free sausages.
Currently, to achieve this, they’re exploring more brand awareness strategies and sales growth channels, as well as building organic customer relationships.
From a financial standpoint, they’re looking for funding to expand, either through crowdfunding or investments. “Now is the time to do it with the five year plan we are working on,” Vicky shared.
Featured Image Credit: Lily’s Homemade