This former international student became the brain behind the food delivery app Hawkr

When Anton Ego took a bite of the ratatouille that Remy cooked in the movie “Ratatouille”, he was immediately transported back to his childhood when he ate his mother’s homemade version of vegetable stew. Just one dish brought Ego the same comfort he had had all those years and immediately lifted his mood. This idea – that home-cooked meals can provide comfort during tumultuous times – has spurred Liyen Tan to start his home-cooked food business in the United States and eventually a food delivery app in his home country.

Tan, originally from Penang, Malaysia, has always had a passion for food. After graduating from the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego), she had the idea to introduce Americans to Malaysian cuisine – without breaking the bank. He didn’t need any capital – just his kitchen and tools. Tan took to Reddit to collect orders and in less than a week she received 25 orders for her homemade Hainan Chicken Rice.

All was well for the next two months, until a caring customer informed him that having a home cooking business was actually illegal in many US states.

Tan (R) graduated from the University of California, San Diego and started selling homemade meals from her own kitchen in California. Source: Liyen Tan

Hawkr, a one-of-a-kind food delivery app

Looking back, it was a good move for Tan to bring his idea and talents home where they could thrive. Hawker – as it is now called – grew from the small kitchen of Tan in California to the kitchens of 200 merchants in Klang Valley. The platform, dubbed by Tan as an “Airbnb for home cooking,” exclusively recruits home cooks to join as merchants to empower them.

Since its inception, Hawkr has been a food delivery app. While still the core service, Hawkr is all about building a community of home businesses and equipping them with the tools and resources they need to succeed. To double down on his community-building efforts, Tan launched services like Hawkr+, where customers pay a subscription fee to get unlimited free shipping. This has led to a customer retention rate of over 80%.

“We recently launched ‘Hawkr Open House’ which is a private dining concept, where customers can dine at our merchants’ homes without paying private dining prices,” Tan told Study International.

food delivery app

While Tan’s daily life now revolves around improving her food delivery app, she still works on her other passions from time to time. Source: Liyen Tan

The mastermind behind the food delivery app that targets home cooks

Before Hawkr, Tan was like any other international student in the United States – hopeful and optimistic about getting an internship or a job opportunity after graduation. Although she received a job offer, companies began to rescind offers from international students in favor of hiring local graduates.

It wasn’t ideal, but the Tuanku Ja’afar College alumnus had no regrets about studying in the United States. The country’s higher education system operated in such a way that she could keep her options open and pursue a wide range of academic subjects without declaring her major immediately after applying.

“The American university system keeps you there for four years, so I had more time to explore what I wanted to do. That’s why I finally decided to attend UC San Diego,” she says. “I didn’t declare my major until after my second term there and that’s when I decided to go into international economics, a passion for which I was about 15 years old. year.”

This holistic aspect of American education was the highlight of the 24-year-old’s time at UC San Diego. “It made me a more balanced person. I also learned not to invest too much in a particular field of study, because I could focus on all my passions in the same way,” adds- her, mentioning how she ended up with minors in dance and Chinese.

food delivery app

Before the food delivery app came the idea of ​​bringing homemade Malaysian food to the doorstep of California. Source: Liyen Tan

International student life in California

If Tan had a superpower, it would be to teleport between California and his hometown of Penang. “The best part of living in California is hands down the weather. However, California is a very expensive place to live where eating out was a luxury. Penang, on the other hand, is the place for foodies,” says she.

What Tan really misses, however, is being a student in a foreign country. “I think I’m naturally a very curious person, so having to meet new people, learn a new culture, eat new foods keeps me on my toes,” she recalls. “People in California are super nice and in return they are also always curious about my culture. It wasn’t hard to meet new people and find a place where you can call home. I even bonded friendship with teachers too.

Studying in California was not without its share of culture shocks. One that particularly stood out for her was the way all the professors insisted that the students address them by their first name. “It was strange because I grew up in Malaysiawhere you have to address teachers by their titles,” she says.

From international student to entrepreneur

Now Tan works full time on his food delivery app. Her advice to budding entrepreneurs is to do it: “I am aware of my privileged position to be able to take greater risks than others, so I recommend starting small. Tools to help entrepreneurs get started with relatively low costs are more abundant and accessible than ever. »

For example, Tan never knew how to code, but she used no-code tools at first. “Hawkr started out on Google Forms, which is completely free. If you ever need someone to talk entrepreneurship with, I don’t have all the answers, but I’d love to be your support partner because I hope to see the startup scene grow,” she says.

Comments are closed.