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From working in a bank to chopping raw pork: Couple open their own wet-market stall after helping with family business

From working in a bank to chopping raw pork: Couple open their own wet-market stall after helping with family business
PHOTO: Shin Min Daily News

If you often shop for groceries at?Blk 409 Ang Mo Kio, you may have seen a new stall?called SG Xiao Xian Rou.?

Upon first glance, it may seem like any other wet market stall selling raw pork.?

But the owners aren't your usual hawkers?who are often elderly folk—they're actually a young millennial couple.?

They weren't always hawkers either.

A few years back, Emily Tan, 33, and Nicholas Ang, 34?worked in a bank.?

So, why the career switch??

Helping with the family business

For years, Nicholas'?family has been in the pork trading scene and the family business had been around since his grandfather's generation, Shin Min Daily News reported in an article on Sunday (June 2).?

Later on, it?was passed to Nicholas' father.?

But in 2018, he died from a heart attack while at work.?

To keep the family business alive, Nicholas' mother took charge and ran the business?herself.?

At his father's funeral, Nicholas recalled some relatives mentioning?that it was hard to run a stall selling?raw pork without the help of a man.?

On top of that, seeing his mother run the business alone broke his heart.?So, the following year after his father's death,?Nicholas quit his full-time job at DBS?to help at the stall.?

Nicholas had been with the bank for more than five years, Emily?told AsiaOne in an interview, while she was with DBS for three years?before leaving to help out with the family business too.?

The couple actually met while training at DBS in 2015 and got married in 2017.?

A huge career switch?

While their career switch may seem extreme to some—especially since they changed?industries—the couple were able to manage.?

"To be honest, it?wasn't hard leaving the banking industry. Different jobs have?different responsibilities and stress levels. We were?able to adapt, so it was not much of an issue to us," Emily told us.?

In fact, they realised that the?jobs had a few similarities.?

"?Both of us were branch service officers at DBS. There isn't much difference in job scopes as?both are in the service line," she explained.

"The only difference is long standing hours, no benefits such as leaves, medical, bonuses, and the need to wake up in the?wee hours of the morning."

She added that unlike hawkers, banks are more mentally stressful. But the hawker life makes your body "ache everywhere".?

Picking up experience as they go?

While Nicholas' family had long been in the business of butchery, Nicholas himself had little experience with the trade despite helping out at the stall when he was a kid.?

In fact, he didn't even know how to chop meat.?

Emily too was not familiar with the industry and struggled a little when they first started out.?

"?At the beginning stage, we were?still not familiar with the cuts of the meats and bones. We didn't have much strength to handle the chopper too," she told AsiaOne.?

"If the chopper is?too heavy, long periods?of chopping will cause our wrist to become sore and the pain will kick in. But if the chopper is too light, we won’t have enough strength to chop the meat and this will?lead to there being brittle bones."?

Emily added that some customers would complain if the bones are brittle.?

"Everything we do, we only have a chance. Once you slice or chop the meat?wrongly, we can't?'glue' back the meat."?

Preparing the meat wasn't the only thing they had to worry about—they had to learn how to deal with customers too.?

The couple even made some losses at the start while trying to get used to the work.

Emily explained that things can get pretty chaotic during peak periods and people would keep demanding for their orders to be met, even when hawkers are still preparing other customers' orders.?

For one incident, Nicholas was so swamped that he let the customer calculate the bill herself.?

"Once the customer left then he realised he undercharged," said Emily.?

Opening their own stall?

Emily shared that she stopped helping with the business in February 2022 after she gave birth.?

At the end of last year, Nicholas decided to leave too.?

"We left [the family business] because of some disagreements here and there," Emily explained to AsiaOne.?

"We, being the new generation, have?our own thoughts about changing and implementing new ideas so as to let the business grow."?

As of now, Nicholas' mother runs the stall alone and has no intentions to retire just yet.?

The couple took a short break and opened their own stall,?SG Xiao Xian Rou, at?Blk 409 Ang Mo Kio in February this year.?

They do stand out in the market due to their age but their stall neighbours have been helpful.?

Emily also pointed out to us that they aren't the only younger ones working at the market.?

"We don’t feel out of the place as some youngsters started out earlier than us to help?their parents," she revealed.?

They've also gone digital, selling their products online to reach a wider audience.?

ALSO READ:?Former chef at Takagi Ramen opens own hawker stall selling his rendition of the dish, pumped $40k into business

melissateo@asiaone.com?

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