DayDayCook founder turns passion into thriving business

November 11, 2019 15:00
DayDayCook founder Norma Chu wants to bring the fun of cooking into everyone’s daily life. Photo: HKEJ, DayDayCook

With the rise of mobile internet technology and food delivery apps, city residents spend less time cooking and eating at home nowadays, compared with previous generations. In fact, many young people can't cook at all.

Amid this growing trend, 38-year-old Norma Chu, a financial analyst turned entrepreneur, established an online multimedia platform that offers a wide variety of quality recipes and dishes for the local palate.

Founded in 2012, Hong Kong-based DayDayCook has since become a popular go-to place on the internet for original recipes and cooking advice.

"The initial idea of launching this business was to encourage youths to learn and enjoy cooking through this platform," Chu told the Hong Kong Economic Journal in an interview.

Once a hobby project that she did during leisure time, Chu later decided to quit her job as head of securities research at HSBC Private Banking Investment Management in order to devote her full time to her passion for Chinese cooking, and eventually launched DayDayCook.

"At the time, I thought if it didn't turn out to be successful, I would just return to the financial sector," she said. "But I really gave it a try for two years. I did not want to feel regret for not giving it a try."

Her bold decision, along with hard work and dedication, eventually began to pay off.

Offering an enormous video library of recipes, DayDayCook has amassed more than 60 million users in Hong Kong, mainland China, and regions beyond.

Riding the short-video trend on the Chinese internet, the multimedia platform has over 600 million views per month from its website, mobile app, and multiple online streaming and video channels such as YouTube, China-based iQiyi and Youku.

The online recipe hub has also launched an e-commerce business, DayDayCook Shop, which sells food ingredients, kitchen supplies, and electronic appliances online.

Chu expanded DayDayCook’s presence in the mainland China market by setting up its first mainland China office in Shanghai in 2015.

More than producing quality recipes online and engaging in e-commerce business, DayDayCook built its first physical store at the K11 Art Mall in Shanghai in 2017, mainly offering a wide range of cooking and baking classes and other related activities to domestic customers.

This was followed by launching branches in Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu, and Chongqing.

Targeting middle- and high-income mainland women, particularly those living in cities with a thriving economy, DayDayCook's face-to-face cooking classes are priced from 99 yuan (US$14) to around 500 yuan (US$71) per session.

Average spending per customer reaches 2,500 yuan (US$357) at each time of spending.

DayDayCook’s experience stores aim to foster brand relationship with users and potential customers, enabling the mass market to experience the brand first hand, according to Chu.

Back in style

“In addition to sharing cooking skills and recipes, our physical stores also allow customers to enjoy cooking so they won't feel that cooking is an unpleasant social activity," she said.

In this digital age, people can be seen burying their heads in mobile games, messaging, and online entertainment.

But Chu believes that cooking, once dismissed as old-fashioned, has come back into style: "Cooking is not about feeding yourself and your family anymore, but has become an element of a quality life; it is no longer just about housewives, but a luxury to enjoy the taste of life."

Seeking to grow her business from online to offline, Chu said expanding the e-commerce platform and product offerings will be DayDayCook’s focus in the next three to five years.

"At an early stage, we mainly sold third-party products, but that has not been effective in enhancing the product differentiation of our platform, and there was intense price competition."

Over the past few months, DayDayCook has launched over 100 types of its own house-brand goods, including bread, sauces, food ingredients, and noodles.

Sales income has accounted for 40 percent of the company’s total revenue as of October this year, and the company aims to increase the share of its own branded items to about 60 to 70 percent.

Chu said her team is also ramping up efforts to overcome the growing pains of an online-to-offline business. One of the major challenges lies in the operational management of its physical experience stores, a new one for the team which originally specialized in running an online publishing business.

"The past 18 months have been particularly tough for me, because there are so many changes and uncertainties in the external environment that I can't control," said Chu. “I can't, for example, stop the Sino-US trade tensions, which had an impact on our business plans."

Since its founding, DayDayCook has raised 135 million yuan (US$19.3 million) via three venture capital rounds, from heavyweight investors such as K11 Investment, founded by Adrian Cheng, executive vice-chairman and general manager of Hong Kong-based property developer New World Development; Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund launched by the Chinese e-commerce giant; 500 Startups, AMTD Group, and Magic Capital, among others.

Asked whether the homegrown startup plans to launch an initial public offering, Chu confirms that she does have this goal.

"[But I believe an IPO] should not be the ‘finish line’ for the company, because this is only a means for fundraising, and the key is still how to keep growing after financing… We see [the IPO] as a phase goal."

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 11

Translation by Ben Ng

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal