Ms Elayne Ang had worked for more than 15 years in the banking industry when she decided to take a leap to become a hawker.
The big switch in 2019 saw her opening a stall to sell carrot cake and hokkien mee, and fielding questions from well-meaning friends about her decision to forgo a stable, successful job with a steady income for the uncertainties of the trade.
Ms Ang, 40, who set up the stall with her partner, told The Straits Times on Monday (Jan 11): “When people found out about it, they asked if we were crazy. But we just felt that we could do it and we went ahead.”
Less than two years on, she has forged ahead in her new career, and on Monday (Jan 11) received a Promising New Hawker Award at the inaugural Singapore Hawkers Awards.
This award recognises new hawkers who have shown potential in sustaining their budding trade.
Ms Ang said: “I had a decent salary. But there is office politics, it’s always an ever-running sales number, and we are always in a rat race. I was thinking to myself, ‘ Do I want to continue this in my 40s and 50s?’ That’s when I thought I should give (the hawker business) a shot because I don’t want to be running something so strenuous when I’m older.”
Ms Ang left her job and later started Tian Kee Carrot Cake and Hokkien Mee with her partner, Mr Samuel Tan, 36, at Block 84 Marine Parade Central around May 2019.
Initially, she could not get used to the heat after having worked in an air-conditioned environment during her years at the banks.
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She said: “I had heat rash in this first week of our business; it was so uncomfortable. Our food was also initially not up to standard and it was too oily, too salty, and not in the right proportions.”
But the pair pushed on and made it a point to visit other hawker stalls to sample their food so they could perfect their recipe.
They soon came up with their signature crispy black carrot cake, which has become a hot seller on their menu.
They also made it a point to sit down with their customers and get their feedback, and slowly saw their customer base grow.
Their pool of regulars is also what kept them afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic, which hit them about nine months into their business.
The help and support they received from customers, as well as the older hawkers around them, also kept their spirits up.
Ms Ang said: “We got more than just the business. The kind of friendship and community spirit that we got was so strong and they accepted us like a big family.
“Honestly, when we started the stall 1½ years ago, we have never expected to receive any award. We just wanted to serve good food. For us to be chosen, we just feel so humbled and so blessed.”
This article was first published in The Straits Times.