Alden Boon

From ITE Graduate to Self-made Entrepreneur – Littlebotany Founder Fendi Sani on His Love for Plants and Overcoming Insecurities



What were the challenges you faced when you opened your first farm (and now-closed) Littlebotany Punggol?

Everything had to be built from scratch. I remember the rain stalled the progress for days. Then, very suddenly my carpenter just gave up on the job without completing it. He ran away with the half-built structures too. I lost money on that. I was stuck. I’m just inherently not good with tools. As a solopreneur, I thought that when I failed, I had to fail alone. Then, I realised I could ask for help. And people — friends, fellow plant enthusiasts — responded. They came to help me build racks, fences and the roof. One thing led to another, and before we knew it, we had a farm.

Other challenge was facing societal expectations. When I started Littlebotany in 2020, it was not normal for a youngster to run a farm, which typically grows edibles or hydroponics. Littlebotany sells ornamental plants. It is also unheard of for a Malay person to be in this field. When I was still building the Punggol farm, whenever I was onsite at the plot of land, a passer-by would come up to me and ask: ‘Are you a worker?’ I have also received comments such as, ‘You’re Malay, shouldn’t you be working in the food and beverage industry?’ People thought I was of a different nationality — that I was a Malay business owner in the plants industry was simply impossible. While I’m sure they came from a harmless place, such passing remarks did get to me and they hurt my confidence. I thought, ‘Maybe I really cannot do it. Maybe it’s not a “Malay” thing to pursue.’ And because I was in a public space building something, my failures were front and centre for all to see.

Not only was everything built from scratch, I had to start my business from ground zero. Because I didn’t run in the same circles as the other industry players, I didn’t have a mentor. I didn’t have a handout. I had to overcome language and cultural differences. Everything I know, I had to learn from mistakes and trial and error.

Fendi Sani Littlebotany Singapore Plant Green Ornamental -1010

How did you overcome that sense of unbelonging? 

For a while, my motivation was ‘I’m going to prove the naysayers wrong and that I could do it’. But I became increasingly lost. My passion faltered. I questioned my own motive: ‘Am I doing this to share my love of plants, or do I just want this to succeed so I could prove someone wrong?’ A lot of entrepreneurs use negative feedback as fuel. That’s okay, but it cannot be the primary motivation — it stems from a place of negativity. And nothing that starts with negativity, be it hatred or anger, will bloom.

What I went through is a collective lived experience. It’s not a unique one: it’s what members of the minority groups face; it’s something we have dealt and will deal with our whole lives. To be honest, I was not mentally strong, so I had to compartmentalise the defeatist thoughts. But because we had already put in so much labour and physical work, so much blood and sweat, and we had cried so many tears, giving up was not an option. I focused on the smaller successes. I told myself to just persevere, just a little bit more.

I only managed to overcome the mental barrier that I wasn’t good enough to be in the industry after success came. Success was the confirmation that I could do it. The voices, the insecurities only went away after we succeeded. And now, as a person with a platform, I act on my privilege by giving other entrepreneurs a space and also give back to charity.

I hope the success of Littlebotany will inspire other Malays to not box themselves in, and to not confine themselves to pursue only what society thinks we should be pursuing.

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Who are the entrepreneurs you work with?

Lynn, who is of Misspotterin fame, one day gifted me a handmade pot. It was so beautiful. And because it is handmade, each piece is different. Aesthetically, my plants look nicer in them. There’s meaning attached to the pieces too: one could be a tribute to someone who had passed away. The customers love them as well — they can tell the difference from factory-produced and handmade ones. As my business grew, so did the demand for these handmade pots. I started expanding my network of potters, who themselves have stories and struggles. Because we are all entrepreneurs just trying to make it in this competitive world, we bonded. The pots are just a bonus — the friendship and comradeship that came out of this is so special to me.

Fendi Sani Littlebotany Singapore Plant Green Ornamental -1010
Fendi Sani Littlebotany Singapore Plant Green Ornamental -1010

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Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.