A Malaysian woman based in Lincolnshire launched a business during the coronavirus pandemic importing south East Asian food products to showcase an array of rich flavours, particularly from her home country.
Cheryl Ellron-Boulter worked as a bank manager in Borneo in Asia before moving to Lincolnshire in September 2020, after her husband Shaun Boulter was promoted in his job to global head of security operations and services at AXA Partners.
Cheryl, 41, started Makan Bites (makan means eat in Malaysian) in November 2020 with just 15 products and her business has been rapidly growing ever since.
The mum-of-two now sells almost 300 products on Makan Bite’s e-commerce website and has been supplying consumers all over UK and Europe, including from the brand Maznah.
She has the only company in the UK to sell that brand, while ‘The Famous Kam Heong Asian Spice Blend’ is also proving to be a very popular selling product.
In September 2021, Makan Bites was appointed as a marketing agent by the Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority (FAMA) – a Malaysian government agency.
Cheryl told The Lincolnite that the agency allows her company to have the sole rights to sell new niche Malaysian products into the UK.
The following month she moved into a 1,000 square foot warehouse in Ruskington to facilitate the demand and storage of the business. By the end of the year Cheryl’s business had attracted interest from restaurants in the UK, including in London, as well as in Germany and Norway.
At the start of 2022, she set up the wholesale side of the business and hopes to supply to independent and high street supermarkets, as well as to restaurants and hotels.
Individuals and businesses can order products for next day delivery, or there is a click and collect service with pick ups available from the warehouse located at Unit 1, Wilcox Bakery Yard, Fen Rd, Ruskington, NG34 9TH.
Cheryl told The Lincolnite: “Malaysia is a mini Asia in itself and our food is rich in flavour. I like to see people enjoy what they eat and saw a gap in the market to bring more Malaysian flavours to the UK.
“What inspired me to do this business is to give more options of Asian cuisines apart from the normal Thai, Chinese and Indian takeaway.
“With the support of the Malaysian government, it gives me more fuel to promote and create awareness of our Malaysian culture and its dishes.
“Malaysian cuisine has gained in popularity in the last two years and I found out at the International Food & Drink expo that it’s now at the height of its popularity.
“I’d like to get more people to learn about Malaysian dishes. Through the dishes people would know more about the Malaysian culture.”
More recently, Cheryl attended the IFE (International Food & Drink Event) at the ExCeL in London on Wednesday, March 23, where the products from her business again proved popular.
Makan Bites was also named as an FSB top four finalist for start-up business of the year 2022, with the winner to be decided in April.
Cheryl said her next step is to stock the products in big supermarkets and farm shops, especially in Lincolnshire.
She also wants to grow her workforce by hiring another three people later this year.
She added: “I have had a lot of positive feedback. In London there is more variety of Asian cuisine, but in Lincolnshire it isn’t as adventurous.
“Everyone has enjoyed the products and been coming back for more and I would encourage people to try new things.
“I have so many plans for the future and want to grow big, and show Malaysian cuisine and culture to as many people as possible. I would like to thank my, friends, family, Sleaford Rugby Club’s Ladies team, and FAMA Malaysia for their support.”
In her spare time, Cheryl loves to spend time with her husband Shaun and children – three-year-old Zoe and Ian who is 13. She loves cycling and going to the gym at Sleaford Fitness Zone.
Cheryl also started playing rugby as a winger for Sleaford Rugby Club’s Ladies team in January and already loves the sport.
She also has two rescue dogs – a small fluffy retriever called Rolls, and Bentley who is a typical Malaysian mongrel. They previously lived in difficult conditions, but found their forever home in the UK with Cheryl and her family.