A timid and shy boy sits quietly in a corner of the classroom as his English teacher goes on with her lesson. Not exactly confident in his speech, he did not particularly enjoy speaking up in class.

But fast forward five years later.


Nobody then would have thought that now 27-year-old Santibi would be as business-minded and confident as he is today.

Santibi, who was from the fifth batch of TLF students, has seen a positive transformation not only within himself, but also at Rella's Kitchen — where he has been pouring his heart and soul into for seven years.

Having stopped schooling at the tender age of 17, Santibi describes his life as a zero to hero story.

Prior to his enrolment at TLF, he spent his days on paddy fields together with the other farmers at his village in Tangerang, Indonesia. It was then when he finally decided to change his life.

With a genuine interest in cooking, he learnt how to cook Western dishes at TLF.

This proved to be beneficial to the founder of Rella's Kitchen, Ibu Rella and her husband, also board members of TLF, as they have expanded their business — which started out from selling only pastries to organic salads, catering services, baking and yoga classes as well.

Now with two outlets — one in Yogyakarta and the other in Bogor — Rella's kitchen has over 100 recipes on its menu.

"Ibu Rella and I just want to provide cheap organic food for the benefit of everyone," he said.

The Kitchen partners with TLF, who delivers the organic produce, saving them money from purchasing expensive organic ingredients outside.

However, it was not just cooking skills that Santibi acquired during his time at TLF.

The cheerful lad also saw himself practising marketing skills on the farm.

"We were taught business values right from the start, from the fields when we start planting until the crops are harvested and packed for sale," Santibi recalled.

The farming activities at TLF has shaped him into who he is today — an individual with a sharp business sense who is able to network and interact with customers, and handle orders professionally.

And just like any other business, he has had to deal with problems, but none is too big for him to handle.

"We had customers cancelling their orders at the very last minute. Once, our vehicle broke down causing a delay in the delivery of customers' food," he said. "And there were even cases of ants infestation," he recalled.

Despite such trying times, Santibi has no plans of quitting anytime soon.

"Ibu Rella and I are planning to expand the business further. We are looking into having food trucks in business districts," he said. "Through this, we hope to provide troubled women and unemployed lads with jobs, provide healthy organic food to the business people and expand TLF's branding."

Also a social enterprise, the Kitchen has helped females who live alone, are separated or unemployed with working opportunities at the bakery.

Indebted to TLF for paving the way to success for him, Santibi hopes to give back as much as he can to the farm and inspire other students with his zero to hero story.

"Never give up, always work hard and keep learning".

Those are his principles and they have guided him to where he is today.



Story by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Singapore 2015.

Photo by Gone Adventurin'

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