A man in Singapore who gained attention as the “Hunky Hawker” has “reset” his life after a troubled past filled with expensive cars, luxury watches and a Ponzi scheme that wrecked all his relationships.
At 21, Walter Tay used to work as a cabin crew member for Singapore Airlines, a job that allowed him to live a life most people could only imagine for themselves.
“We grow up watching Hollywood movies and I thought the high life is what I wanted,” Tay, now 31, told Millennials of SG in July.
“I’ve had expensive cars, I wore watches, I stayed opposite MBS [Marina Bay Sands],” he added.
Sadly, Tay’s fun didn’t last. At 24, he left his high-paying job to become a full-time sales agent for two brothers in a multi-level marketing company, which promised a quick return of investment.
Eager to make easy money, Tay succumbed to the company’s vision and sold the same to many of his friends, who eventually decided to join him. Some quit school and their jobs, which promised a good future for them as well.
Unfortunately, the company turned out to be nothing but a Ponzi scheme — and Tay was accountable to everyone he had brought in.
“They left whatever they were doing to join me full-fledged. They brought in money, they brought in connections, they brought in everything precious to them — I did as well. [But] at the end of it, all burn,” he told Millennials of SG.
Tay managed to pull out of the company two years later, but it was too late. Beyond the time, effort and financial resources his friends had invested, it is trust that was broken.
“That’s why I really burned all my connections, all my friendships, all my relationships,” he added.
Drowning in both debt and guilt, Tay started various ventures, such as importing Korean cosmetics and organizing fitness competitions.
While those businesses brought in some revenue, he still had to tackle financial feasibility.
Tay ultimately gave up his ventures. Fortunately, his mother stepped in this time and applied for a hawker stall, which would later become his Father & Son business.
Tay initially despised the idea of becoming a hawker, believing that the job carried the stigma of being a low-SES (socioeconomic status) work in hypercompetitive Singapore. Additionally, he had a fear of missing out, seeing peers go on parties and vacations.
However, Tay eventually learned to love the job that gave him a chance to redeem himself.
Little by little, he managed to cover his debts and even repay those who invested in the scheme.
Now, Tay aims to become a star hawker and sees no difference in his dreams from those climbing the corporate ladder.
For the next three to five years, he hopes to train young people interested in pursuing a hawker career.
“Being a hawker is like a reset button to my life,” Tay told AsiaOne in a new interview. He added that he has already started recruiting interns in his Father & Son stall at Kampung Admiralty.
Tay, who still cooks carrot cakes at the stall, hopes to focus on its marketing side in the future. He encouraged those interested in setting up their own stalls: “It can be tough, but if you have the passion for Singapore hawker food, I will recommend you to try it out.”