From teenage delinquent to hairstylist to the stars
Advice from stranger years ago gave Dave Teng the wake-up call to make something of himself
A piece of advice from a stranger at a police station marked the turning point for hairstylist Dave Teng, who went from wielding knives in fights to styling hair for celebrities such as Frances Yip, Vanness Wu and even members of Aerosmith.
The 50-year-old, who runs his own salon, Hairfolio, at The Adelphi, recounted how he had landed in a police station when he was 15.
As he came from a poor family, he started working when he was in primary school.
Mr Teng told The New Paper: "I picked up smoking from young and was a heavy smoker... I knew all the different ways of gambling games."
He joined a secret society and was often involved in illegal activities and fights.
While detained at a police station one day, a man sitting beside him urged him to think about his future - and to pick up a skill he could earn a living from.
HONED HIS CRAFT
"He told me that no one guided him to be a good man when he was younger, and he regretted the path he took," Mr Teng said.
After national service, Mr Teng realised he was keen on hairstyling. He honed his craft and after just two years was named the top stylist at a local school.
A customer recommended him to veteran celebrity hairstylist David Gan, who offered him a job as an assistant at his salon.
Mr Teng turned the job down at first.
"I felt it was a downgrade from my reputation as a top stylist, I had a huge ego back then," he said.
Later on, when Mr Gan offered him a more senior position at Passion Hair Salon, he jumped on board.
In his 12 years working there, he saw the backstage of various events and met several popular artistes.
Mr Teng also travelled to Taiwan frequently to work at other hair salons, with an intention to settle down there.
"Some of my customers from other (parts) of the country would drive four hours to where I was just to let me do their hair, even though I charged three times the (regular) price," Mr Teng added.
It was then he realised the financial potential in starting his own hair salon.
He returned to Singapore and set up Hairfolio in 2001.
SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY
Now that he has found his footing in the industry, Mr Teng's advice to aspiring stylists is to "find a hair salon where you can learn your craft well".
He added: "A good hair salon will lead you to do better. Learning a craft cannot be just on a whim. Give yourself the opportunity to plan your future well."
Paying forward to society is another important aspect, said Mr Teng,who regularly provides free haircuts to the underprivileged elderly and children.
He said: "I believe it is my duty to serve my community. It is so fulfilling to receive a smile after each service and it makes me feel so grateful."
Secrets of the trade
- Dress up. By presenting your 100 per cent to customers, it shows you appreciate your customers' beauty.
- Be an expert. Choosing a hairstyle for customers is not about what is trending. Have the skill to analyse their faces to find the perfect look for them.
- Be open-minded and learn from others. When you have an opportunity to improve, grab it.