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Why some employees are quitting the 9-to-5 to be their own boss during the pandemic

SINGAPORE — For Fiona Loh, juggling marketing, accounts, customer service and product development is all in a day’s work.

The 28-year-old swapped computers for cookies last year, when she quit her stable job as a technology product manager for a bank to run her own bakery business, Whiskdom.

“Every day I felt something nudging within me: What if, what if, what if?” Loh told CNBC.

And she’s not alone. Loh is one of a growing number of people leaving behind their 9-to-5 jobs to pursue their passion after the pandemic disrupted traditional industries and careers.

Rise of the pandemic entrepreneur

I was working back-to-back between my day job and my night hustle — a good 20 hours a day.

Fiona Loh

founder, Whiskdom

When Singapore’s lockdown last year boosted appetite for home-baked goods, she saw an opportunity to quit the grind and take her Instagram side hustle up a notch.

In July 2020, with the pandemic rife, Loh left her salaried job to take Whiskdom full-time.

“I was working back-to-back between my day job and my night hustle — a good 20 hours a day,” she said. “There came this day where I sat there and I couldn’t think. My mind was so fatigued … I just felt I couldn’t continue.”

28-year-old Singaporean Fiona Loh quit her banking job during the pandemic to run her own bakery business.

CNBC

By October, with demand surging for her molten brownies and levain-style cookies — and an 18-month waitlist to fulfil, the young founder relocated operations from her parents’ home to a commercial kitchen in central Singapore.

Stimulus opens the door for new businesses

Digital payments and other technologies have lowered the barriers to entry for many new business owners.

CNBC

Meantime, the rapid adoption of technology during the period has opened the market for new businesses, Lim noted.

“The competition has levelled out a little bit,” she said. “With the government grants and incentives that actually encourage businesses to go digital, this has provided opportunities for small business owners to look at starting out.”

New generation of business leaders

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