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Side gigs — or a way to make some extra dough outside of your 9-to-5 job — often refer to passive, low-commitment gigs to shore up one’s income. Kelvin Teo, 34, who works in the oil and gas industry as an operations manager, took a different approach: he set up a hawker stall selling Hokkien mee and satay, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The stall, called The Neighbourwok, opened its doors during Phase 2 last June. Its name is a nod to its location in the heartlands of Bukit Batok, as well as its signature wok-fried Hokkien mee.

On why he chose to run a hawker stall as his side gig, a notoriously painstaking, time-consuming affair, he says the business opportunity presented itself after the Circuit Breaker. “I noticed that people my age were cooking less and less [and ordering more hawker food], even while working from home. The pandemic gave me the nudge to start the business I’ve always dreamed of [owning].”

The hawker biz was also a logical extension, says Kelvin, of his hobby. “I started cooking while following instructional YouTube videos two years ago.” Some of the dishes he has cooked for his friends and family include curry chicken and bak kut teh.

Another plus from starting an F&B business in a kopitiam was its relatively cheap initial investment, though Kelvin declines to reveal the exact amount he’d spent. He doesn’t have plans to quit his day job to become a full-time hawker for now, and he is grateful for the support of his boss and colleagues — he says they often pop by for a meal at the stall.

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