Sabah business owner shares her story of struggles, hope and female empowerment during COVID-19 lockdown

By Eve Bandusena | Writer for Parents Avenue

All images via JOOX café

The detrimental toll of COVID-19 on local business owners

“The first thing that ran through my mind was ‘How am I going to face my customers?’ We were forced to cancel pre-booked events and parties.”

There were many things to deal with,” Dolly opens up about the MCO’s effect on JOOX café located in Kobusak 333, located in Penampang, which she runs with her husband.

Dolly shares that since right before the MCO was announced, her business was already seeing losses as the early days of COVID-19 shook Sabah.



“There were a lot of uncertainties, especially among our customers. And because of fear, people are unwilling to go out even for takeaway and delivery, so our business has been affected.”

“We had to face an 80% drop in sales. Plus, I still have to pay for all salaries, rentals, expenses, amidst other things. We had to cut three staff because they weren’t able to come to work due to roadblocks.”

Although the MCO ruling has listed take-out and deliveries as an essential business, businesses are still sorely feeling the brunt of COVID-19.

Adapting from in-house dining to delivery has been rocky due to unpredictable sales.

“We focus very much on delivery now. Honestly, not many people will order take-out. They have to come to your shop and wait for food. That’s not what the customers like,” she says.

“It isn’t easy at all. My husband and I have to be the ones delivering. Sometimes we have a lot of orders, sometimes we have none. Plus, there are so many homemade foods on Facebook, our competition has increased.”

How do we support our local eatery businesses at this time? I ask Dolly.

“Order more deliveries from local cafes and restaurants, instead of the big fast-food chains,” she says.

In times of need, uplift those who need it most

Despite facing the many economical pitfalls as a consequence of COVID-19, Dolly sticks a strong moral code and a stance of optimism which she upholds by serving back her gratitude through community work.

“We didn’t do much except donate food to the hospitals. It is a show of appreciation to the front liners,” she explains.

Dolly recounts that it was a donation effort by JCI (Junior Chamber International), a non-profit international non-governmental organization that is committed to making a positive impact on communities.

“I’m already a JCI member. So, when they came up with a donation idea, I immediately informed them that I would take part,” she says.

“We simply wanted to thank our front liners. If they don’t work at the front line for us, then who would as not everyone is willing to sacrifice.”

So far, a donation in the form of food has been given to Klinik Kesihatan Luyang, Queen Elizabeth Hospital 1 and 2, and Hospital Likas.

Dolly also reveals through her time volunteering with front lines, she is come to learn that they’re facing shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) and volunteers.

A woman helping another woman is a woman empowered

On JOOX’s café’s Instagram, Dolly posted a tongue-in-cheek post about how “Women aren’t empowered by speaking in a Doraemon voice and that helping them make their lives easier will,” based on this, what did you think about the suggestion by the Women, Family and Community Development.

“Of course, it’s a very condescending suggestion to women. Why should women change their personality or character to suit their husbands?” She asks. “It doesn’t solve the domestic violence problem.

Instead, they ask women to put up with the abuse and change themselves to suit their husbands.”

And Dolly has a strong point to make. The lockdown imposed by COVID-19 has bred a sudden and high surge in domestic violence cases across the globe including our nation.

Many women now face the high risk of experiencing domestic violence from their abusers with little to no room for immediate support and protection.

As a mother herself, Dolly talks about the real parental struggles she faces in not only running a business in these uncertain times but parenting her three-year-old daughter as well.

“Having to home school my daughter and at the same time dealing with all the business problems has been exceedingly difficult for me,” she shares.

“I bet all parents who are business owners face the same problem.” Before ending this interview, Dolly imparts heart-to-heart advice to other mothers as they face the in’s and out’s of this COVID-19 predicament.

“Remain mentally healthy at such a time. Stay positive and recall how you survive through the worst times in your life,” she says. “So far, you’ve come through all of those times and you’re going to make it.”

To make reservations, you may contact  them at 016-509-2269. They’re located at  Lot 68, Plaza 333, Kobusak Commercial Centre 88450 Kota Kinabalu. For more information, they can be found on Facebook.