Mak Tok

Mak Tok: The Malaysian chilli sauce and paste company adding some spice to Sheff

The Covid-19 pandemic has made life difficult for thousands of people across the UK and has decimated the hospitality and food industries. But entrepreneurs across Sheffield have risen to the challenge it presents, adapted their business models, and soldiered on despite the uncertainty the current situation has caused.

Will Chew, the Malaysian-born owner of Mak Tok, which is Malay for grandmother, spent the first couple of months of the pandemic running the business with his cousin, Shang, and both of them packed the orders themselves, promoted the products online, and generally took care of the company’s day-to-day business. It was only a few months later that the two were able to hire extra staff – but even then, the two took on a lot of responsibility.

The turning point for the company was Will, the company’s founder, appearing on Dragon’s Den, and securing an investment of £50,000 from one of the show’s presenters, Sara Davies, and since that appearance, the money has been used to promote the business online through various food delivery services and social media sites.

“The pandemic has given us the opportunity to explore the creative side of our marketing, and discover new ways to stay connected with our consumers,” Will said.

Mak Tok founder Will Chew

This is something Will, who has an MA in the Psychology of Music, has excelled at. The company, whose summer promotional campaign is currently underway, fills its social media accounts with creative videos featuring modernised versions of classic Malaysian folk songs, visual gags, and a sense of creativity.

Will also states that fans of Mak Tok – who he affectionately calls Tokkis – have been instrumental in the success of his company.

“Word of mouth tends to be our strength in acquiring new customers,” he said. “We are really blessed to have a group of super supportive Tokkis that are always sharing our story and products with their circle of friends.”

But Mak Tok’s chilli paste recipes are part of the company’s success, too. The recipes, which are based on ones created by Will’s Malaysian grandmother, have proven very successful, being stocked by Ocado, Amazon, and various shops local to Sheffield and the Peak District.

Despite this level of success, Will has no plans to take the business far from Sheffield.

“I think it’s the people that make me want to stay here,’ he said. “Out of all the cities I’ve been in, Sheffield has got that warmth that resonates really well with my Malaysian culture.”

“People here are really open-minded. They’re willing to try new things and they’ve got a new group of generations coming in to make the city more vibrant than it was. Sheffield gave me a lot, and I try to give back to Sheffield as well.”

Two kinds of products are currently available from Mak Tok: a selection of chilli pastes and chilli sauces which cater to all dietary restrictions; most of their products are vegan, and all of them include natural ingredients. But stay tuned – in the future, Mak Tok may unveil some new products…

You can find out more about Mak Tok on their website,

For more news on Sheffield independents, head here. 

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