He was a labourer for 18 years. After working so long for little money, Mr Sopian Mahmon decided to do something different.
He took the culinary route. And the 69-year-old has not looked back.
He began selling a delicacy called putu bambu, and he is now a millionaire, Malaysia's The Star reported.
Putu bambu is a sweet traditional snack of rice flour with gula melaka filling steamed in a bamboo mould.
Mr Sopian started with one stall in Johor. Now he manages four near a carpark.
When he started, his daily income was about RM200 (S$75). Now the four stalls generate about RM4,500 in sales daily.
During weekends and public holidays, his earnings can go up to RM11,000 a day, he claimed.
He has a huge following which includes the Johor royal family, well-known politicians and customers from Singapore and Indonesia.
Visitors to the town of Ayer Hitam, known for its bazaars, can see Mr Sopian at one of his stalls preparing his trademark dish.
Recapping his rags-to-riches journey, he said that he used to enjoy putu bambu prepared by his grandmother when he was a boy.
When he was in his teens, he learnt how to prepare the snack from his mother.
But he did not have the confidence to leave his job as a labourer.
He told The Star: "Initially, I was hesitant to leave my job to sell putu bambu. But looking at my wife and children, I knew I had to do it if I wanted a better life for them.
"I mustered up the courage and set up a small stall to sell the dish, based on the recipe passed down in my family for generations."
One of his stalls is named Putu Bambu Special Juriah, after his wife Juriah Ismail, 64.
Mr Sopian says his wife has been his pillar of strength and source of motivation through good and tough times.
He said he took about four years to improvise the family recipe.
"The sweetness has to be just right, too."
Mr Sopian said he uses local ingredients and gula melaka from Indonesia.
Each packet which has six pieces is sold at RM3.
Said Mr Sopian: "When I began, I needed four kilogrammes of rice flour a day. These days, I use up to 80kg of flour daily."
Now that he has become successful, he has one wish.
He hopes his two sons, who now help him, will carry on the trade.
This article was published on April 6 in The New Paper.
Get The New Paper for more stories.