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Startups in spotlight

5 local businesses enliven life in lockdown

By Jessica Asprer

Spending the last 15 months—yes, it’s been that long—in quarantine has sparked in many homebound folks a newfound love (or mad obsession) for hobbies, home accessories, fashion pieces, and tasty treats popular online. 

Late last year, the number of registered online businesses had jumped to an estimated 73,000, according to the Department of Trade and Industry. The digital landscape enables small entrepreneurs to establish their brands and reach customers. 

Take these five local small businesses, for example. They offer products that are a hit amid the pandemic. 

Bring the greens in

Over the span of varying degrees of quarantine, plantitos and plantitas from across the country have invested much of their time and attention to growing their own greens and bringing a wee bit of mother nature indoors.

“If there’s one silver lining that the lockdown brought upon, it’s definitely being able to reconnect with my love for plants,” shared Danica Sarabia.

Startups in spotlight
Rattan baskets and plant stands complement Munting Taniman’s plants. (@muntingtaniman/Instagram)
The lockdown also strengthened family relationships. Munting Taniman, a mother-daughter passion project turned business, allows Sarabia and her mother to bond over something they like together while also connecting with people from all walks of life.

“It’s nice to have found an interest that I can share with her,” she shared. “We’ve managed to unlock a deeper level of trust in each other, which I love.”

With both her parents unemployed and her father going through dialysis, the extra income when they were starting was a welcome benefit, related Sarabia, who was also juggling synchronous classes at the University of the Philippines. 

After her father’s passing, they wanted to pursue a greenhouse or garden center “but there’s no pressure,” she said. “We want to keep things light and fun as Papa would have wanted.” 

The cactus, succulent, and snake plant propagations they started offering had gotten them multiple phone calls. And in the months that followed, they grew their online presence and expanded their catalog with a wide array of foliage suitable for both seasoned and newbie plant parents.

“We don’t believe in the so-called ‘green thumb’,” Sarabia said, emphasizing that raising and caring for a plant child takes responsibility, patience, knowing their needs, and a lot of trial and error.

Flowers forever

Those who don’t have enough time or patience to care for plants are turning to their dried counterparts. 

Jamaica Guban, through her Awesome Blossoms online shop, helps enliven spaces with Instagram-worthy premium dried flowers. 

The florist-at-heart’s online business began when passion intertwined with creativity brought a wide and vibrant selection of dried flower arrangements, bouquets, wreaths, and framed flowers. 

Startups in spotlight
Awesome Blossom’s low-maintenance blooms add color to any space. (@awesomeblossomsph/Instagram)
After researching and seeing that dried blooms don’t wilt like fresh ones, she started arranging her own at home, and after getting requests from friends, her business was born in June 2020.

The store’s catalog includes preserved peonies, wheat, fresh statice, phalaris, bunny tails, roses, and gypsophila, among other flora. 

Guban said she was “really dreaming of opening a physical shop back then, [but] God’s ways are higher than mine, so even in the chaos and difficult times, I was able and given an opportunity to open an online flower shop”.

To preserve Awesome Blossoms’ low-maintenance beauties, keep them away from sunlight and water. 

Crocheted chicness

These days, the perfect blend of comfort and style has taken over the trends. Habi.co makes handcrafted chic and multi-colored crochet products that’s high in style and comfort. 

Habi.co came to life in December 2020 because of two women’s newfound passion for all things crochet. 

Startups in spotlight
One of Habi.Co’s bestsellers, the Mayari crochet top. (@_habi.co/Instagram)
“During this time, we had a lot of realizations about our lives,” shared co-owner Trisha Tolentino. “With these realizations came the eagerness to strive for growth, to be better, and to create a good life for the future.”

She and her best friend, Camille Bartolome, thought of making something they could call their own. Being partners was an advantage in managing the workload and taking turns handling the orders, Tolentino said. “Anything one of us lacks, the other always makes up for.”

But the spontaneous endeavor had its share of setbacks when it came to sourcing, shipping, delivery, and changes in the designs, equipment, and methods before they settled with a model that best fit the business.

“Starting a business and growing it is not linear,” underscored Tolentino. When it comes to managing a small business in the pandemic, sales are sometimes steady and other times, there is nothing at all. 

Yet the burnout that follows juggling multiple responsibilities is quelled when vision comes to mind, “we always think of the future and how we can build a life for ourselves. We started this for ourselves and we want to see it through.” 

Booze bouquet

“Because men deserve bouquets too,” said Catherine Beltran who, six years ago, was looking for the perfect gift for her boyfriend only to find that there was no such things as “alcohol bouquet” in the Philippines.

Beltran began exploring until her mother suggested turning her affinity into something lucrative. After creating a Facebook page in 2016, Liquor Bouquet PH received numerous bookings.

Startups in spotlight

Beltran described working amid the pandemic as an all-day, everyday commitment, and that dividing their attention between perfecting their products and making profit was crucial.

The liquor ban was especially tough for the business. But for Beltran, helping people express their feelings to their loved ones is what kept her going.

Most of their designs are ideas of their clients – customized according to the occasion and their personal preferences all while keeping up with the trends.

Chilled cakes 

Mireille Nicole Lim hopes her MLbytheML icebox and chilled cakes can share with their customers the joy and sweetness of life despite poignant times. 

Startups in spotlight
Maltesers Chilled Cake (left) and Oreo Lemon Icebox Cake from MLbytheML. (@mlbytheml/Instagram)
“[That] as they eat our desserts, they will remember the good times and have hope that they are loved and that they are not alone, especially on special occasions, in hard times, or even on just regular days.” 

Lim, who is a designer by practice, said the vision was to have a physical store. “A café beside my future clothing store.” But in the meantime, she’s just grateful to have some extra income from the sale of her sweet treats. 

Topics: COVID-19 pandemic , Munting Taniman , MLbytheML , Catherine Beltran
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