Empowerment through food
AGAK Agak looks to provide jobs for young people from vulnerable communities, equipping them with a well-rounded skill set for the F&B industry.
“Perhaps they are from under-privileged socio-economic backgrounds, or the disabled community, or just someone who has been trying to get a job but can’t,” said Ili Sulaiman, co-founder of Agak Agak, along with Basira Yeusuff. Nizam Rosli is the third member of the partnership. Applicants need to be between the ages of 17 and 35.
With two intakes a year, these apprentices spend six months in the restaurant itself, learning both in the kitchen and on the floor, and six months in the head office; there, they learn everything from business administration to food photography to restaurant planning.
“Basira handles the kitchen training, and works with friends in F&B and consultants, and I do the front of house training, as well as marketing and branding,” said Ili. “We have an architect who comes in to do a session on restaurant design, Nizam does accounts training. We also work with various partners. Leaderonomics also conducts a session for us.
“Once the apprentices complete the year-long training, they can apply for jobs, and we support them by working with various partners to get them placements,” said Ili. They continue to mentor them for a year after they complete the programme.
As a start-up, Agak Agak is looking to grow slowly and sustainably – its first intake had two apprentices, and its second has four. While anyone can apply, Agak Agak also works with groups like Yayasan Chow Kit, MyKasih Foundation and KL Krash Pad to identify potential candidates for the programme.
“It costs us about RM30,000 to RM40,000 per apprentice, per year. We couldn’t have done it without the support of our customers – whether it’s dine-in, catering services, hampers, etc,” said Ili. “About 40% of our profits from the business are going into this programme, and our apprentices are not bonded to us.
“Our programme is all about thinking out of the box. You don’t have to be academically-oriented, it’s about passion, skill and a desire to learn,” said Ili. “And the industry needs good people anyway.
“We aren’t the only ones to create change, of course, but we need more champions out there doing this kind of work.
“We hope to expand to another location as well, and run the programme from there. And we really want to be the go-to for other social entrepreneurs in the F&B industry.” (From left) Nizam, Basira and Ili are the Agak Agak forces for good, looking to help impact young people’s lives by training them to enter the F&B industry. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star