How One Woman Created One Of Singapore’s Biggest Halal Food Blogs

CLEO Change Maker Jumaiyah Mahathir is the co-founder of Halalfoodhunt.

Jumaiyah Mahathir CLEO Change Maker

At CLEO, we’re constantly on the lookout for game-changers who are dedicated to making a positive change in the world. Every year, we seek out young female professionals who are not only great at what they do, but also inspire others. This year, we found 10.

Jumaiyah Mahathir, 29, Co-founder of Halalfoodhunt

When she first co-founded restaurant directory Halalfoodhunt, CLEO Change Maker Jumaiyah’s intention was to make it easier for Muslims (and their non-Muslim friends) to find options for eating out. Granted, there were already existing halal food directories, but a common gripe is that they weren’t updated regularly, and may contain inaccurate information.

“Some of these directories use content aggregators, which taps onto other websites and take the information that is tagged as halal. But the problem with using artificial intelligence like this is that the listings are not verified,” explains Jumaiyah.

“That’s why for Halalfoodhunt, all the businesses listed are actually registered with us. We have our own processes to determine what kind of halal category it falls into,” she adds. She also saw that most information on halal food are written in Malay, which means that non-Malay Muslims may have a harder time finding the resources and information they need. That’s why all of the content up on Halalfoodhunt is in English.

“Most of the information on what is halal is in Malay, or featured in Malay media. But there are Muslims of other races as well, and we want them to be included,” says Jumaiyah.

Uncle, Prata Kosong satu, Prata Telur satu! • If you are a Singaporean, you've said this a few times at the coffeeshop before. There are some halal dishes which are enjoyed by everyone no matter which ethnicity we come from- Prata, Nasi Lemak, Briyani, Pasta, Fish & Chips, Kway Teow and many more (what other food did we miss?) • If you're at a party, as long as the food is halal and we make some vegetarian and/or gluten free options available, we have food that everyone in Singapore is able to eat. • Halal food in Singapore has grown beyond just Malay or Indian food. Over the years halal foodies have seen so many types of cuisines that restauranteurs have exposed us to: Italian, Swedish, Thai, Vietnamese and so many more which we can enjoy with all our friends for any occassion. The halal food scene is just growing here! (check out halalfoodhunt.com to see a directory of verified halal places in SG) • We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all our followers of other dietary needs (i.e. you dont need to eat halal) for following us and finding out more about halal food to support your halal foodie friends or family when eating out. Harmony comes when we take the time to understand each other's differences which only makes us stronger! • Happy Racial Harmony Day everyone! #proudtobeSingaporean • #racialharmonyday #singapore #prata #curry #exploresingsporesg #igsgfoodies #igsgfoodie #halalsg #sghalal #halalfoodies #sg

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Earlier this year, the directory has also launched an accompanying app. Besides being a food directory, the Halalfoodhunt brand also churns out editorial content through its blog, Instagram, and YouTube channel.

But the journey to establish Halalfoodhunt wasn’t all smooth-sailing. Jumaiyah recalls running into funding issues earlier on, when they knocked on the doors of investors, only to be told no again and again.

“When doors slam repeatedly in your face like this, you start to wonder why you didn’t get any money,” Jumaiyah ponders.

“Was it because we’re all women? We’re an all-female Muslim team. That’s two minority groups we belong in. You don’t see people like us succeeding.”

“One of the investors that we spoke to… we saw them invest in another startup, right after they rejected us. That startup was an app company run by guys. That startup had nothing [while we’ve already built something]. We started to wonder if we aren’t seen as valuable because of our gender.”

“When we tried to get funding the first time round, we were told that we’re too early in that stage to be asking for money,” says Jumaiyah. “But we know that isn’t the case. There are loads of people who get funded just based on ideas alone.”

[FULL EXPERIENCE ON IGSTORY] Ain and Rumi got to try delicious food from @positanoristo this evening. Overall, the food was a great moodlifter. Especially the Positano Beef Wagyu Burger (buttery buns with super tender meat) and Soft Shell Crab Linguine (sweet and savoury). The Fudge Brownie? 2 words. NAK LAGI. . Need to see more up-close photos? Check out our Instastory for now. Full review on Sifted (our blog) coming soon! . Btw, the ambience is cosy and their decor makes you wanna travel to Italy. Psst, they have sitting upstairs too. AND AND AND their music is syiok and fun (@positanoristo y'all have Spotify playlist or not? Share ah!) . #positanoristo #positano #bussorahstreet #halalsg #halalrestaurants #classicrock #spotify #wagyubeefburger #softshellcrab #brownie #halalfoodies #halalfood #halalmeat #italiansg #italianfood

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“It wasn’t like we had nothing. We had a bit of traction, we’ve already launched our website, and we’ve got buy-ins and a pool of users.” By the time she pitched to the tenth investor, she was told that the company could run on its own and didn’t need any additional funds. Fueled by anger, but armed with the confidence gained from getting Halalfoodhunt off the ground with their own efforts, Jumaiyah and her team decided to operate with the assumption that they’ll never have an investor. Till today, the company has been running its operations purely on its revenue.

Jumaiyah revealed that there had been interested parties, but they would only fund Halalfoodhunt on the condition that it caters to the luxury market by targeting affluent Muslim travelers.

“It was like a slap in the face. That’s not the point of Halalfoodhunt’s existence,” she says.

“The last thing we want to do is propagate the idea that halal is only for the rich.”

As a business owner, Jumaiyah also strongly believes in giving back to the community. Leveraging on the network of restaurants and customers that Halalfoodhunt has built over the years, the company has been participating in Giving Week for the past two years, which donates a portion of their proceeds to their selected beneficiaries.

“We’re good at marketing, so that’s what we did. We market the dishes and encourage our users to visit these restaurants for a good cause,” she explains. “Halalfoodhunt is about building a community, so of course we have to be involved in community work as well.”

With her degree in chemistry and experience working at a halal certification company before, Jumaiyah also wants Halalfoodhunt to be a resource that people turn to when they want to find out if something is safe for consumption for Muslims.

“If you ask someone from our generation, or even younger, if they know what makes food halal, they’ll most likely reply ‘oh, we just look for the logo’. There’s this perception that no logo equals not halal – which is completely untrue! That’s what we’re trying to change,” she says.

“We want to educate people, and ensure that we deepen the understanding of halal – both within Muslim community and outside of it.”

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