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Last year’s Circuit Breaker dealt a huge blow to Ken Lee’s personal training and health supplement business. To make things worse, his Vietnam-born wife, Le Thi Kim Chi, or Kim, 37, who worked at a nail salon, was retrenched from her job. The couple has two daughters, aged two and 11.

Around April last year, the enterprising 40-year-old noticed a growing demand for rice dumplings, as the Dragonboat Festival was two months away. “I saw on the news that everyone was stocking up on glutinous rice. In terms of logistics, I knew it would also be easier as rice dumplings can be stored for a longer time,” he tells 8days.sg over the phone. This was how he started his home-based biz, Kim Lee Traditional Hokkien Zhang.

Business grew quickly after Ken set up a Facebook page and he received between 80 to 100 orders a day. Just as things were starting to look up, the couple faced another challenge. “Kim went for a major surgery to remove a brain tumour last July. She is better now and she wants to find a job, but I’m reluctant as she is still not 100 percent [well] yet,” shares Ken. “Making rice dumplings is a laborious job, it takes a lot of time to cook the meat and do the wrapping. After that, we still have to cook the dumplings for a few more hours. So I tried to think of something else that is simpler for her to do, which is how we thought of the all-time favourite, curry puffs.”

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