Like most pot and plant businesses, Potsie Pots & Plants was launched during the pandemic—a passion project between Joy Morin Saquido and her daughters, Ma. Celina Joy and Kristine Joy.
“She became a plantita, always looking for new plants to grow and always working on her garden,” says Celina. “It got to the point where her plants kept multiplying because of how often she’d work on propagating them. Hence, we wanted to give her a platform where she can freely share them—a page where she can show her plant babies and also a place where she can sell some of them.” (Read: These 3 Women Turn Stress Into Business a la K-drama With ‘Itaenim Class’!)
This sparked the family’s interest in pots, specifically woven abaca planters and ceramic pots made by craftsmen from Tiwi, in their native Albay. “It has always been our goal to prioritize locally made crafts from Albay,” says Celina. “Albay is known for the Mayon Volcano, yes, but we also have other things to be proud of—especially when it comes to our people. We wanted to amplify the excellent craftsmanship of our fellow Albayanos.”
Since its founding on September 2020, the venture has had its share of highs and lows. Thriving at first with the great demand for pots by plantitos and plantitas in Manila, the Tiwi craftsmen suffered serious loss and damage to property when Typhoon Rolly made landfall in their town in November 2020.
Then, tragic news: Joy Morin Saquido, the inspiration behind Potsie Pots & Plants, passed away in June 2021. For a while, the family considered closing the business. It took a special sign for them to go ahead with the venture, as the Saquido matriarch would have wanted.
Celina talks to My Pope Philippines about how the business is doing, the creative process behind the bestselling pots and planters, and the lessons learned from this venture borne out of love for her mother. (Read: 3 Floral Cupcake Stores for Your Mother’s Day Needs)
How’s business these days?
We weren’t getting that much traction at first, especially last year. We only revamped our business in February 2021. We revamped our page by selling dried flowers in time for Valentine’s. At that time, dried flowers were not that popular here in our province so we grabbed the opportunity. We have taken a liking to dried flowers since they last longer than fresh flowers, and you can store them for 2-3 years.
While we were preparing dried flowers, we realized that for them to stay longer, they have to be properly taken care of. This led us to explore vases that could store the flowers better. We then collaborated with the craftsmen from Tiwi, Albay.
Our bestseller is our nordic vase and the hand-carved ceramic vase. We wanted to celebrate handcrafted pottery so no two pieces are alike. Each one has its own unique imperfections, giving each piece character. In a world of speed and mass production, we wanted to give the spotlight to traditionally made ceramics, while supporting the livelihood of our Albay craftsmen.
When working with Tiwi craftsmen, are you involved in the creative process? Or do you leave it up to them?
Both! Initially, we had designs that we wanted them to produce. However, upon talking with them and seeing their process, we worked on improving the design based on their feedback. Luckily, they were very welcoming to our ideas and they gave insights into the designs. I believe in their craftsmanship and I know that they know what’s best when it comes to making our vision a reality. (Read: 5 Local Brands To Check Out Amid The Pandemic)
The whole production process takes 2-3 weeks, since every piece is handmade. They use a traditional pottery-making process and they source the clay from their place as well. Tiwi has an abundance of clay, which is what they use for our ceramic products.
Aside from working with them on some designs, we also sell what they have—of course, with their permission. At this point, every order counts so we try to buy as many designs as we can, not only because we want to support them, but also because we know their products deserve to be seen by more people.
Working with the local craftsmen in Albay has been a great pleasure and a worthwhile experience for us. At first, we started working with them to find homes for our plants and dried flowers. But as we went on, we saw their challenges and decided to work with them for the purpose of helping them as well. Typhoon Rolly’s effects on their community and lives motivated us to work with them even more.
The loss of your mom is still fairly recent. How do you carry on?
It was hard to continue moving forward, but our connection with our partner craftsmen from Tiwi was what urged us.
My mom had befriended them over the past year, so they were also shocked when they heard the news. A month after my mom’s passing, they said that my mom still had orders and that they were ready for pick-up. At that time, we weren’t really motivated to do anything, as we were still grieving. But that message woke us up. It’s as if our mother was telling us to continue what we started and to move forward.
What do you enjoy about this venture, and what has it taught you?
We enjoy looking at our partner craftsmens’ designs! Every time we pick up our orders, we always see new designs that we end up taking home. Our craftsmen from Tiwi are very talented. They have been exploring new designs, colors, and styles to keep up with the trends. As an entrepreneur, I find it a great joy to celebrate their creations with more people.
We’ve learned valuable lessons since we started Potsie. We learned that many Filipinos still enjoy locally made handcrafted ceramics. Their feedback on our products has been overwhelming and we’re just glad that we can share this with them. (Read: Catriona Gray Is the New Ambassador for Indigenous Handicrafts)
Now that almost everything is online as well, we cannot discount the impact of social media on our business. It has greatly helped in boosting our sales and we’ve been receiving regular orders now.
Lastly, we learned to take care of our relationship with our craftsmen. For us, they are not just our suppliers; they are our partners. Potsie is still a growing business but we are proud of where we are right now.