As heated, liquefied sugar is spun out of the revolving centre of a basin-like machine and cools as it meets the air, Nurul Syazwani Abdullah deftly collects the resulting strings of confection, known as cotton candy, on sticks to package for orders placed through her Instagram account: @cottoncandylisious.
While most cotton candy stands have disappeared from retail stores, the 42-year-old is packing increasingly more cotton candy into cups from her modest home in RPN Mengkubau. For $18 customers can get 50 cendol-sized cups of cotton candy, making it an affordable yet unusual door gift.
In the past seven years, Syazwani’s cotton candy business has gradually shifted from a productive pastime to become the largest earner for her family of five.
“Today if we’re receiving orders regularly, we can make $1,000 from the business in a month,” said Syazwani who has three children to support with her husband who works a security guard.
“Cottoncandylisious is still very small (as a business), but it has kept the family afloat.”
Syazwani embraced Islam in 1997, and got married and began a family a few years later. She worked a number of jobs, from a general clerk to a retail store assistant tasked with manning a cotton candy machine.
By 2012 however, the couple’s income was barely making ends meet. Syazwani decided to put in a request to the Islamic Da’wah Centre (PDI) for a monthly welfare package of basic necessities including rice and cooking oil – worth around $60.
“At the time I learned that PDI was offering a (capacity building) programme to help mualaf (converts) gain financial independence by helping with small grants to enable them to start their own business,” she said.
Syazwani was then offered the option of receiving monthly welfare or a one-time grant of $2,000 which could cover a cotton candy machine and a generator that would supply electricity for live events.
“I choose the grant because I believed that I could build my own business that would later be able to provide for my family,” said Syazwani, who left her job in 2016 to pursue the business full-time.
Today, the profits of cottoncandylisious also help fund Syazwani’s eldest son’s studies as Micronet International College. Her children, in turn, help with production whenever they’re out of school.
“Together we’ve made it work,” she says optimistically. “PDI has provided with us the necessity. But the effort – how far we want to take it – will be up to us. Doing business, there are ups and downs, but Alhamdullilah knowing that this is your own (business) is fulfilling.”