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Jeffrey Tan

Give a man a fish…

I had grown up around fish all my life. My father was a fish wholesaler and after he passed away, my elder brother set up his own fishmongering business.

I remember spending my days in wet markets and eventually helping my brother to run his stall, even through University. I guess it came naturally then, when I wanted to start my own business, that I would also go into the fish trade.

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But I didn’t just want to be another fishmonger. I wanted to use my business for the greater good. It was with this in mind that I started Dish the Fish in 2015.

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Inspired by the clean, sleek markets I saw overseas, I wanted to change the misconception of wet markets as being dirty and unhygienic, and also get Singaporeans to enjoy home-cooked food.

At Dish the Fish, we set up an online ordering system and make recipes easily accessible on our site. To cater to busy working parents, we also do pre-packaged bags for children, which have been a hit. We also use smart technology to help understand my customers’ preferences and make recommendations. To reach out to the younger generation, we got on social media and have been posting videos of how fish is gutted and prepared. With the help of the Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV) Scheme from SPRING, we were able to use technology to streamline our backend operating systems, so we can focus on sourcing the freshest products and delivering the best customer service.

I’m happy to say that our efforts have paid off, and we are now enjoying brisk business.

But things haven’t always been this smooth-sailing. When we first set up our stall, we faced a lot of resistance from customers. They did not understand at first why they were not allowed to press on our fish to test for freshness, and when we introduced vacuum-packed fish, they feared that cooking the plastic would be harmful to them.

What really spurred me through this journey has been my wife. From the beginning, she has supported my business endeavours. When the business was in its infancy, we survived on her income in addition to my savings. She also handled the marketing and branding of the business. When it got bigger, she even left her job to support my dreams full-time.

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I never dreamed that Dish the Fish would grow to the business it is today, and this would not have been possible without the help I got along the way. Now, just like what we did with fishmongering, we are looking to revolutionise the seafood wholesale business. We will add value in the seafood selection and preparation phase and not just be a typical ingredient supplier.

To young aspiring entrepreneurs, I would like to tell you this – Entrepreneurship can feel like a lonely road at first, but don’t give up. Take calculated risks, and never fail to plan. Last but not least, always be thankful for the ones who have supported your dreams along the way.

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