After three years working for an auditing firm, Ms Ng Qin Rong toyed with the idea of becoming a vegetarian rice bowl hawker.
But with start-up costs amounting to around $8,000 and her lack of cooking experience, the 26-year-old was deterred from taking the next step. So when she heard about a programme that allowed her to try out the hawker trade at a lower cost for six months, she jumped at the opportunity and applied immediately.
"It helped me take the leap of faith because it was a lot cheaper and less risky," said Ms Ng.
Aspiring hawkers like Ms Ng with no prior experience in managing or operating food stalls or shops can now test the waters before plunging into the trade, without breaking the bank. Under the Incubation Stall Programme, which was officially launched yesterday, aspiring hawkers can rent a hawker stall for six months at half the market rate.
These stalls come with basic equipment like stainless steel shelves, worktops, fridges, a display shelf and sinks. Ms Ng forked out just $1,000 for other equipment and crockery.
Three of the 13 stalls under the programme are currently occupied. The other 10 available stalls are at six hawker centres across the island: ABC Brickworks Food Centre, Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market, Chinatown Complex Food Centre, Tekka Centre, Upper Boon Keng Food Centre and 163 Bukit Merah Central Food Centre.
Visiting ABC Brickworks Food Centre and Holland Drive Food Centre yesterday to meet two incubation stallholders, Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, said the programme will help aspiring hawkers to "significantly reduce the initial set-up costs" and minimise some of the risks.
Number of stalls under the Incubation Stall Programme, which was officially launched yesterday; three are currently occupied. The other 10 available stalls are at six hawker centres across the island.
"We hope (the programme) will help to attract more (hawkers) to come… and (they will) use it as a platform to learn the ropes, test out their business plan and make a decision as to whether they are suited for the hawker trade," she added.
The programme, which is run by the National Environment Agency (NEA), was one of the recommendations submitted last year by the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee to sustain the hawker trade and support new entrants.
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.
Ms Tan Pey See, 40, who runs a muffin stall at ABC Brickworks Food Centre, said the programme has allowed her to pursue her passion for baking after more than 10 years as a chemical engineer.
"I did not have any background in the food industry so it was very risky to just jump into the hawker line. The capital costs can also be quite huge," she said.
Ms Tan is already scouting for possible hawker centre stalls she can rent long-term once her six-month incubation period is over.
"I love interacting with my customers. And when they tell me my muffins taste good, I feel very satisfied," she said.
For more information, visit www.nea.gov.sg/public-health/hawker-management/isp