Competitive Pokemon coaching, professional princesses and other unusual services

The demand for these unusual companies’ services is surging.

Ian Cheng

Ian Cheng

The Straits Times


The Academy of Enchantment's Cara Neo (left) and professional Pokemon coach Melvin Keh. PHOTOS: CARA NEO, POKEMON SINGAPORE

June 14, 2023

SINGAPORE – You may have read about complaints by home owners of defects in housing projects, but did you know that firms specialising in checking for such defects exist?

In fact, demand for these companies’ services is surging, defect inspection firms say, as there is greater awareness among home owners of the need for professional checks.

Here are some other niche services that are available:

Competitive Pokemon coaching

Mr Melvin Keh in an interview with The Straits Times in February 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Pokemon’s famous tagline is “Gotta catch em all!”, but the game’s competitive players also aspire to be the very best.

Competitive Pokemon player Melvin Keh has represented Singapore on the international stage and made the top 16 at the Pokemon World Championships in 2018 and 2019. He also won the national championships in Singapore in 2022 and 2023.

The 29-year-old gym manager (Pokemon players may say he is a Gym Leader in real life) told The Straits Times that he began coaching other players after he was approached by a parent.

In 2020, one of his students, Simone Lim, then seven years old, emerged the winner at the Feb 21-23 Pokemon Oceania International Championships Junior Division in Melbourne. At that point, Mr Keh had coached her for eight months.

“Pokemon VGC (video game championships) is the competitive scene of the mainline Pokemon games, where players strategically construct teams and engage in turn-based battles,” explains Mr Keh.

A mastery of in-game mechanics is essential, as raising competitive Pokemon involves breeding and training the critters to maximise their potential.

He charges US$28 (S$38) for an hour-long session and US$38 for a 90-minute one. He estimates that he has trained around 70 students to date, clocking nearly 300 hours of coaching time across more than 260 sessions.

Professional mermaids and princesses

Ms Cara Neo (centre) founded the Singapore Mermaid School in 2015. PHOTO: CARA NEO

Since Ms Cara Neo first donned a mermaid’s tail in 2013, she has been getting requests from people who want her to teach them to be mermaids.

The 31-year-old “professional mermaid” founded the Singapore Mermaid School in 2015, offering a tiered syllabus where students can don their fins and take to the water in a private pool.

She said that from just seven students in her first class, she has since taught a “few hundred”. Among the mermaid hopefuls she has taught are nurses and former Olympic swimmers.

Ms Neo took several years to conceptualise the syllabus, which includes not just swimming technique, but also theory, “about mermaid myths, legends and culture across the world”, she said. The mermaid courses start from $440 for five sessions.

Outside her underwater world, Ms Neo also pulls double duty as a princess, setting up the Academy of Enchantment in 2017.

Ms Cara Neo dressed as a princess at a party. PHOTO: CARA NEO

The Academy of Enchantment offers themed parties where Ms Neo and her team dress up as princesses, with custom-made costumes and wigs from the United States and Europe.

In one of Ms Neo’s favourite parties so far, she led the group in an inspirational cheer she came up with. “It was inspiring for me as a grown adult to see an entire room of little girls bopping up and down, pumping their fists, and cheering that they could be anything,” she said.

Paying to get scolded by maids

Japanese maid cafes – where waitresses dressed in maid costumes and greet customers as “master” or “princess” – are not new but rarely seen in Singapore.

Event concept group SubaToki Cafe’s version of it gives the concept a twist. Since 2018, it has been organising pop-up maid cafe events, called Tsundere Cafe, where customers willingly get berated and punished in the name of fun.

The Japanese term tsundere describes someone who is usually cold or cranky but occasionally shows a soft, kind and mushy side.

The Tsundere Cafe event has seen more than 500 customers over three iterations since its first in 2018. Customers buy a set meal that costs between $20 and $30 to get one of the limited seats.

The next Tsundere Cafe will be held on Aug 26 at Daijoubu Cafe in Stamford Road, themed after a traditional Japanese summer festival.

A Tsundere Cafe staff member playing a game with a customer. PHOTO: SUBATOKI CAFE

Cafe staff undergo rigorous training, during which they learn to adopt a “cold-shoulder attitude” while still respecting boundaries, said SubaToki Cafe founder Ophelia Lim, 34.

They are also instructed not to use vulgar language in their conversations, and practise carrying out punishments to avoid causing significant injury to customers.

“If customers wish to take their punishments to another level, they may even request for… a slap to the face or be asked to do push-ups by our staff for a separate fee,” said Ms Lim.

A Tsundere Cafe staff member about to administer a forehead flick to a customer. PHOTO: SUBATOKI CAFE

Flash mob for hire

Dance and events company Dance Singapore specialises in organising flash mobs – creating that moment where people appear to spontaneously burst into song and dance.

Conceptualised in-house, a flash mob can be arranged for anything from a marriage proposal to a product launch. Dance Singapore needs a lead time of about two months, depending on the complexity of the choreography, said Mr Gerard Sebastian Raj, the firm’s artistic director.

“Dance Singapore started doing flash mobs shortly after the phenomenon started, and it now accounts for about half of the dance shows and events that we do,” Mr Raj told ST, referring to the American TV show Mobbed, which aired from 2011 to 2013.

He added that he has not yet rejected a request: “I remember once in Thailand, the VIP wanted to come in on an elephant… and we did it!”

Recent flash mobs Dance Singapore has worked on include a surprise birthday party in an office, and a marriage proposal at Gardens by the Bay.

Professional queueing

Some say that queueing is a national pastime, but there are those who do it professionally.

Savvycents, who wanted to be identified only by his Carousell username, began the service a year ago, after noticing that people were searching on the platform for queueing services.

People were willing to pay a premium for these services – especially for popular food pop-ups such as Mister Donut or sales of limited items.

The launch of the MoonSwatch attracted large crowds to the Swatch store at Ion Orchard on March 26, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Search terms including “JB customs”, “concert tickets”, “marquee” and “banking queue” accompany Savvycents’ listing on the online marketplace platform.

So far, he has been engaged by about 20 clients, and earns about $10 per hour of queueing.

“Usually, I do it alone, unless a request comes along which I’m unable to fulfil due to work,” said Savvycents, adding that he ropes in his daughter if he has work commitments.

“We both find these types of ad-hoc tasks extremely interesting and it is a quick way to earn extra cash for such simple tasks.”

scroll to top