Syed Muhammad Gaddafi’s exuberant persona welcomes anyone willing to listen to his story. Raised by his beloved mother, Ibu Halimah, life was tough for ten-year-old Syed who would sell kuih muih made by his mother to make ends meet. As time passed, he took various odd jobs to help out, exposing him to business and teaching him plenty, including the ability to speak in Cantonese. “I love to explore new things. Perhaps that is why I did many things as a young person,” chuckles Syed.
In dealing with life’s adversities, Syed’s mother is his pillar of strength and role model. “She would do anything for our survival. I really admire her perseverance and willpower,” he shares. Living apart for years, they learnt how to survive until Syed had enough resources to rent a house with his mother in 1994. They continued selling home-cooked food through their catering business until people started asking how Ibu Halimah remains youthful whilst approaching 60 years of age. Thus, she decided to share the secret recipe of traditional herbs she has been consuming since young as passed down by her mother. This triggered a huge response and Jamu Mak Dara was formed in 2005 to produce more traditional health products.
Today, the multi-million-ringgit business produces 26 products and continues to grow. “I never thought it could be this huge. We had competitors since early on, but we have gained trust and acceptance from consumers appreciating our ingenuity,” says Syed. Syed’s aspiration for Jamu Mak Dara is to build a legacy, so it continues to stand strong without his presence. “To achieve that I need to be proactive, continue learning about business and work harder,” he says.
Moreover, his past motivates him to push forward. “I survived the worst days of my life. From that I know I will be able to face the challenges of today,” he says. Syed’s two cents for aspiring entrepreneurs is humbling. “Be brave, move out of your comfort zone and face your challenges. Hardships make you stronger, so keep trying.”