At his previous fish soup stall in People's Park Complex, Mr Goh Wee Kwang's business did not do as well as he wanted.
"The crowd wasn't good over there. The place was noisy and dirty, and the bosses would increase the rent if your business was good," the 40-year-old said in Mandarin.
He wanted a change of environment, and saw a notice in the newspapers for the Entrepreneurship Programme by foodcourt and eatery operator Fei Siong.
Mr Goh, one of the oldest participants, does not lack the drive and enthusiasm of the young.
Fei Siong's group managing director Tan Kim Siong said: "The programme is not limited to youngsters. It also helps those in the trade who want to restart, especially those who are young at heart."
Mr Goh, who is also selling fish soup at Ci Yuan hawker centre, said he has learnt a new recipe because of the programme.
"In the past, we would use a lot of MSG for hawker food, but now, we use less MSG to suit the customers' tastes. Customers now prefer their food to be healthier," he said.
Mr Goh said he is earning more now. He pays about $1,500 monthly for rent, half the amount at his previous fish soup stall.
He is also happier with the working conditions at Ci Yuan, saying the crowd is better, the place is cleaner, and rents do not go up in tandem with growing business.
Mr Goh, who has one helper, works from 7am to 10pm daily, and gets half a day's rest only on Mondays. "I start work when the sun hasn't risen, and I go home when it's dark. There is no choice. I need to work hard to provide for my family."
Asked if he would pass on his craft to his daughters, who are eight and three, he said: "I don't want my daughters to be in the business. It is tough and not for them.
"There's a lot of back-breaking and sweaty work. I just want them to study properly, and get a comfortable job."
This article was first published on April 20, 2016.
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