Just 21, This Funeral Director is ‘In it For Life’

December 1, 2009
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imageJust 18 years old in 2006, Mr Nicky Teo Chin Li coordinated his first funeral. It was a day he will always remember.

‘The deceased had died suddenly from a heart attack. When the body came back from embalming, the whole family began wailing uncontrollably. And when he was cremated, his wife just fainted,’ he said.

Mr Teo, now 21 and reportedly Singapore’s youngest funeral director, has come a long way since. Together with his company, Funeral Solutions (Singapore), the O-level holder has coordinated more than 100 funerals.

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His entrepreneurial spirit won him a Spirit of Enterprise Award last week.

The award, into its seventh year, is given out by charity organisation Spirit of Enterprise to entrepreneurs in a range of industries. They must have successfully run businesses for a few years.

Mr Teo, a St Hilda’s Secondary School alumnus, chose to go into the funeral business because his late aunt had encouraged him to do volunteer work at temples.

‘Part of this included preparing and helping out at funerals. I thought, if I don’t do this, no one else will.’

He started his company with only $300 in his bank account, and much to the chagrin of his marine engineer and accountant parents.

He handed out business cards and fliers but business took a long time to grow.

Wisely, he arranged a partnership with Hock Hin Undertaker Embalming & Coffin Services to learn the ropes.

He now works on its premises in Sin Ming Drive. Hock Hin provides the caskets while he coordinates arrangements like flowers, food and the tentage.

‘Some people still don’t take me seriously because I’m so young. The best thing I can do is show my sincerity and willingness to learn as much as I can.’

He dresses in a full suit on the job while continuing to learn as much about funeral customs from other undertakers and vendors as he can.

Now, more people are putting their trust in him. In a good month, he is asked to arrange eight to 10 funerals, with a gross turnover of $30,000 to $50,000.

His family has also become used to his work, a good thing as Mr Teo has decided he is in it for life.

‘It’s very difficult, but it’s also very rewarding and meaningful to help someone in their time of grief.

‘Even if I started anew in another life, I would still gravitate towards becoming a funeral director,’ he said.

Source: AsiaOne Business

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