From newspaper to joss paper: this woman quit her office job to help her parents run their kim zua business, Lifestyle News


In this series, AsiaOne is aimed at people who find themselves changing careers and leading their lives in a new direction, whether by choice or circumstance.

Most people in their 30s work in an office, but not Jamie Peh.

Instead, she is in the business of traditional papers and incense sticks.

When AsiaOne catches up with her on a Zoom call after a long day taking care of the family business, it quickly becomes clear that being your own boss isn’t a walk in the park.

The 32-year-old woman tells us straight away that her job is “really tiring”. But it’s worth it to keep the tradition alive, she says.

From company to kim zua

For the uninitiated – especially the younger generation – kim zua refers to the joss papers, incense and paper offerings that some burn for deceased family members during the seventh lunar month, the Qing Ming festival, and festive periods such as the Chinese New Year.

Jamie tells us that his father founded Ken Hwat Joss Papers & Sticks over 35 years ago. And it was a family affair from the start – Jamie, his mom, and his brother often helped him out in the store.

While she had helped him since she was a child, she didn’t start working full time until May of this year.

To do so, she had to quit her stable job at Singapore Press Holdings, where she worked for four years as an account manager.

The contrast between the two jobs is night and day, she says. At her corporate position, she maintained a regular nine to six weekday work schedule in an air-conditioned office. But now she works both weekdays and weekends in a wet market and starts her day at 7 a.m.

And while weekends are considered a time off for most people, it’s also the busiest time for the store, which means Jamie’s social life has to take a back seat.

“I can barely go out on Friday night because I have to get up at 6 am on a Saturday,” she shares.

In addition, working in the kim zua The scene is extremely physically demanding, especially for a young woman like Jamie.

“It’s a lot of work. You have to transport a lot of things and it’s heavy goods that need to be loaded and unloaded in the store,” she explains.

On top of all this, she explains that she still has a lot to learn on the job despite the fact that she has been working there since she was a child. Back then, all she had to do was help pack the goods. Now she has to serve customers, which forces her to know each product like the back of her hand.

This includes learning about the different types of incense sticks and papers, the prices, as well as the various products used on special occasions like the seventh month of the lunar calendar and the Qing Ming festival.

And it’s a lot more work than you might expect – Jamie tells us that incense sticks alone have over a thousand variations.


“They can be long or short and have different smells like sandalwood, cedarwood, jasmine and lavender,” she explains.

The store even sells paper offerings that are shaped like houses and cars, which customers typically buy for loved ones and ancestors.

Everything for the family

While some customers are pleasantly surprised at how young Jamie is, she admits that she actually gets quite a few remarks about wasting her youth in a sunset business.

“Why don’t you want to work nine to five?” Why don’t you want to work in an office? It’s better, ”Jamie repeats the usual comments that arise when people learn of his intention to take over the Company.

Some even go so far as to say that “there is no future for [her]”.

“It’s a bit upsetting because it’s a family business and I want to continue it,” she says with a hint of sadness in her voice.


But it is not only a question of perpetuating the family tradition. Jamie admits that watching her aging parents do such intensive physical labor makes her suffer and she wants to help them as much as possible despite her father’s protests.

Hoping to discourage his daughter, he told her that people her age usually don’t come to wet markets and other than that, she won’t be able to wear nice clothes or nice shoes while working in the stifling heat.

However, Jamie’s response remains firm.

“It’s more like a commitment and a responsibility. I just really want to help my dad with that,” she tells us resolutely.

And it’s not just for the short term either – Jamie says she’s here for the long term unless her dad decides to shut the store down for good. But by then, she hopes she can “extend the deal” as much as she can.

“I want this tradition to continue as long as possible because it is in our roots,” adds Jamie seriously.

Go digital

While the transition for Jamie was not easy, his job change was a boon for the family business.

With his previous experience in the media industry, Jamie was successful in helping the company go digital by setting up a corporate account on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

On top of that, in the time to come, Jamie is hopeful that the company can eventually enter the ecommerce scene and sell its products on platforms like Lazada and Shopee. But she says everything is still in the works because her current work schedule is already very busy.

“I don’t even have time to look at my phone so it’s a bit difficult for me to try to figure out how to put this all together,” she said with a tired laugh.

“I hope that with these pages I can try to educate the younger generations on this kim zua is and what all these festivals are. “

Address: Blk 13 Haig Road # 01-23 / 24/25, Haig Road Market, Singapore 430013

[email protected]

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.