SINGAPORE - When Ms Fiona Lim and her husband Jerry Ng reopened their bak chor mee stall at ABC Brickworks Food Centre in mid-June after a three-month closure, they weren't sure if customers were going to return amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Business had dipped by more than 60 per cent while the food centre was undergoing renovation between March and June, during which they switched to delivering their dishes through online platforms.
But their financial stress was alleviated as they were given an average of 40 per cent rental rebates over 15 months since October last year when they joined the National Environment Agency's (NEA) Incubation Stall Programme.
The NEA said in a Facebook post on Friday (Sept 18) that more than 105 applicants have applied to set up hawker stalls since the programme was launched in February 2018, of which 28 were successful.
Of the 28, 10 are operating incubation stalls under the programme while three have become full-fledged hawkers. The remaining 15 had left the programme.
Ms Lim, 30, and Mr Ng, 36, are among the 10 stallholders who have stayed the course since they joined the programme last year.
"We were able to save up to $4,000 in start-up costs and forked out the remaining $8,000 on our own. The rental rebates helped us greatly in reducing our financial stress because customer walk-ins were weak in the first few months and we needed time to promote our stall to people," said Ms Lim.
"The rebates are also helping us to cope now as we're recovering from the effects of Covid-19."
Under the Incubation Stall Programme, aspiring hawkers are given a 50 per cent rental rebate for the first nine months, followed by a 25 per cent rental rebate for the next six months. Their stalls also come with basic equipment like stainless steel shelves, worktops, fridges, a display shelf and sinks.
To be eligible, applicants must have attended either the Introduction to Managing a Hawker Business course run by the Institute of Technical Education or a similar course, or be a graduate of a business management course offered at a tertiary institution.
They must also present a business plan and undergo a food tasting panel assessment.
On top of cooking bak chor mee six days a week, Mr Ng also works part-time as an insurance agent, while Ms Lim mainly manages online orders and makes the deliveries.
The couple have two young children aged one and four years old.
"When we first opened the stall, I would bring my son - who was six months old at that time - with me in a baby carrier so I could help run the stall and take care of him. We are lucky to have helpful hawker neighbours who will help to play with him when we are busy," Ms Lim said.