'I wanted a more hands-on job': 21-year-old skips university to take over dad's fishmonger business

'I wanted a more hands-on job': 21-year-old skips university to take over dad's fishmonger business
Teo Ting Zhou, 21, helps to manage his father's business at Marsiling Market from Tuesday to Sunday, 5am to 12.30pm.
PHOTO: The New Paper

As a child, Teo Ting Zhou had very little interest in his parents' fishmongering business, finding it "smelly and tiring".

Over time, and with his parents' constant urging, he started helping them out at their Marsiling Market stall. By the time he was 18 and in junior college, Teo had learnt not just the skills of the trade - but that selling seafood was actually a profitable venture.

Now 21, he harbours no regrets in electing to skip university to continue his father's business.

Speaking to TNP, Teo explained his decision, which he made soon after completing his A' levels, despite the fact that he qualified for university.

"I saw that there was potential for the business to grow, and I also wanted a more hands-on job. Plus, as my parents were getting older, I wanted to help them out," he said.

"When I was helping out at the stall, sometimes his customers would tell me to take over my father's business, as it was very profitable.

"I also kept watching my father butcher the fish, and it slowly sparked my interest."

Teo would diligently watch his 60-year-old father Boon Kiong handle and chop the seafood, and duly memorised the steps involved. Generations of fishmongering ran in his blood, after all, as the business was started some 50 years ago by his grandfather.

Despite cutting his fingers on a few occasions, he persisted until he perfected the skill.

"At the start, I cut (the fish) quite slowly and poorly. But as time passes, if you keep working on something, your skills will improve."

Aware of the sacrifices - working over weekends and holidays - and hard work required to run the stall, his father was initially hesitant about his son making it a career choice.

But Teo, while waiting to enlist for national service, had already made up his mind. He travelled to the market with his mother at 5am from Tuesday to Sunday until his stint in the army began.

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"I was quite persistent about wanting to take this route. So, I proved him wrong. Eventually, he realised that I had the heart to take hold of his business," Teo said.

"He allowed me to grow as a fishmonger… What I like most about the job is wearing casual clothes for work."

He does have to keep painfully early hours, though, as the stall (#01-30/31) at Marsiling Market operates from Tuesday to Sunday, from 5am to 12.30pm.

"We have been selling fish like red snapper, grouper, as well as sotong and prawn - and the price range is affordable. Customers can also expect cleaning and cutting services from us," he said.

"My advice is that you have to be prepared and take on any hardship in any work you do. As long as you have the will to improve, no matter how much time it takes, you can excel in any career path."

This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.

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