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Toronto woman supporting family off cheese business after moving to city during lockdown

A Toronto woman has been supporting her family all on her own through a cheese platter business after moving to Canada just six months ago, with her husband losing his job only three months later.

Kiss My Pans deals in the cheese grazing platters that have been rising in popularity on social media, but sadly there's a more desperate story behind the cutesy trays of cheese, fruit, flowers, pickles and dip posted on Instagram.

"We have been away from Canada for the last 12 years and were living in Singapore. I was a marketing professional for 13 years and was retrenched two and a half years ago. I started Kiss My Pans in Singapore, a cheese grazing sensation when it was still very unknown and have worked with Visa and Disney there," Jeanne Chai of Kiss My Pans told blogTO.

"When the pandemic hit in Asia, Singapore took very strict measures and locked down the whole country and at one point, I wasn't able to continue. We seriously considered moving back to Canada at that point because the pandemic was very serious in Asia then and we thought we would be safer here so we sold everything, packed up and moved back."

Her products start around $80 for items like cheese boards, and she also does things like individualized snack packages for COVID-safe distanced celebrations, baked brie and "grazing cakes" that are basically cakes topped like cheese platters.

"We were in quarantine for two weeks and I seriously contemplated relaunching Kiss My Pans here and started to brainstorm. It was very tough because I didn't understand the market and didn't know how to reach wholesalers and suppliers but I'm a go-getter so I threw everything I knew into this new relaunch and kicked it off," says Chai.

Her food styling is eye-catching, but like many, by no means did she expect this online business to become her family's only source of income.

"My husband has always been in retail operations, attractions and tourism set up and merchandising. He was one of the veterans for setting up Universal Studios retail in Singapore and some other international corporations," says Chai. 

"He had a job three months ago but due to the pandemic and personal reasons, he no longer has that job."

Chai's story echoes that of many: dire circumstances becoming more desperate because of events beyond anyone's control, stopping ordinary successful lives in their tracks. 

"I actually panicked and was quite anxious about how we would get by," says Chai. "We're staying with family at the moment but that is not ideal and we're really trying to stand on our own feet and contribute back to the society and community."

If there's one thing this pandemic has proven, it's that no disease can kill the entrepreneurial spirit. Chai refers to herself as a "go-getter" who's ready to "hustle" and is feeling the pressure, but always continues to innovate and says she's her own best competition.

"This community has been so supportive and kind," says Chai. "Next step is looking for a commercial space for a cheese and deli shop to see if it's a viable option as a business."

Lead photo by

Kiss My Pans

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