Photography: Lawrence Teo

At the age of 14, Aishah Nazneen was already helping her parents at their butcher stall in a Clementi wet market, learning the ropes of cutting meat and poultry, and running a business. Most teenagers would sneer at getting their hands dirty, but not this eldest of four daughters. She welcomed the chance to “hang” with her parents at Nazneen Meat House, since their busy schedule meant they were hardly home.

So when Covid-19 hit two years ago and halted her parents’ work, Aishah knew she had to do something to save the family’s 18-year- old trade. That’s how her online meat delivery service started. It didn’t take long for her business to grow.

Within two weeks, her FB page went from 400 likes to 5,000. In the initial stages, most of her days were spent checking hundreds of messages and settling orders – it was so overwhelming that she even dreamt about them. All this while, she was also juggling a full-time job at a shipping agency and helping her parents at their stall on the weekends. No surprise then that she suffered from burnout soon after.

“I was doing so many things at the same time – settling invoices, taking orders, arranging for delivery, the list goes on. I would wake up in the middle of the night to check my phone for messages or complaints – that’s how bad it was. I was so overloaded that at one point, my mind just went blank. I felt very tired and forgot what I needed to do,” recalls Aishah.

Thankfully, things have since calmed down, and everything is now running like clockwork, but the go-getter sees bigger things in her future. She wants to establish her website and expand her parents’ business to sell more things, such as seafood. Aishah is determined to succeed and prove her naysayers wrong – these include people who didn’t think that girls belonged in the meat industry.

“My father’s siblings are also in the meat industry, but they all have sons. People would say that it’s such a waste that my dad has such an established business, but nobody capable to take over since he has four daughters and no sons.

Some people also think that if you work in the wet market, then you are uneducated,” she scoffs. Aishah holds a diploma in maritime business from Singapore Polytechnic, and is currently pursuing a part- time degree in logistics and supply chain management at the Singapore University of Social Sciences. While she has no intention of fully taking over the meat business once she graduates, she is not going to stop working at the market either, whenever she is needed.

“We have customers who cook the meat they buy from us and send it to us for lunch. Some send us breakfast. These things don’t happen in the office. The vendors and other stall owners, we are all like a small family.”

Nazneen Meat House is at 726 Clementi West Street 2, Singapore 120726.

HAIR & MAKEUP Benedict Choo