With a Simple Online Business Idea and Less than PHP10,000, This Plantita Grew a Successful Venture
The owner of The Stalk Market PH shares how an online business idea at the start of the pandemic led to a successful entrepreneurial venture.
Data from the World Bank shows that a total of 15,161 new businesses were registered in the country in 2020, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. These businesses engaged in the sale of a wide range of products and services, including food, clothing, household items, and even plants. In fact, the pandemic was a time when plantitas and plantitos of different ages emerged on social media. Multiple online businesses cropped up to cater to the growing market. One of these companies born from a simple online business idea is The Stalk Market PH.
In an exclusive interview with The Business Manual, The Stalk Market PH’s owner, Angela Picazo, shares what made her decide to run a business full-time during the pandemic. She also shares how she is able to sustain her business post-pandemic and what she hopes to achieve through The Stalk Market PH.
A Love for Plants
The road that led Angela to The Stalk Market PH started before the pandemic began. In early 2019, she bought her first set of plants with her colleagues in Silang, Cavite despite not having much knowledge about how to care for plants.
She initially began with five plants, but that soon grew to 10 and, eventually, 15. Despite the overwhelming number, she was eager to learn about each of them.
“Prior [to] 2019, I had little knowledge on plants,” she admits. “For me, then, all plants (or leaves) looked the same. It’s funny to think that today, I can now identify the plant by its leaves.”
An Online Business Idea Born During the Pandemic
All of this was just a hobby for Angela until the pandemic happened. Like what happened to countless people at the time, she had to resign from the multinational company she had been working for. Unemployed, she took notice of a business opportunity in the market. An online business idea was born.
“I noticed the demand for plants during the pandemic and took that as my opportunity to start everything,” Angela recalls. Realizing that she had far too many plants to take care of, she decided to execute a simple online business idea to offload some of the plants.
When she decided to make it a full-blown online business, Angela actually started with less than PHP10,000 in capital taken from her personal savings. At the same time, she made sure that she was armed with a strong concept to start her small business with.
“During the lockdown and pandemic, people were frustrated as they couldn’t go out. Me included,” The 38-year-old entrepreneur admits. “So with the plants I sell, I brought nature into their homes. That was my initial concept.”
“If they can’t go out to appreciate nature, I can help them do that even if they are just at home,” she adds.
Standing Out from the Competition
Angela points out that The Stalk Market PH entered the market at the start of the pandemic and not in the middle or at the tail-end of it.
“The Stalk Market PH is one of the online stores that opened during the start of the pandemic,” she says. “There were few competitors then.”
However, she knew that the small number of competitors would not last long and expected there to be more in the near future. Because of this, she made sure to establish the brand and the relationship with her customers.
“True enough, dozens of new plant stores kept popping up online,” she notes.
To help her brand stand out from the competition, Angela made sure that the plants she sold were styled in such a way that when they arrived in customers’ homes, all they needed to do was to remove it from the box, then display it wherever they wanted to.
“I used to style them with customized pots making sure that the plants and pots complement each other,” she shares. “I even hired someone with the talent to paint the clay pots with different characters and designs to give the plants interesting personalities. For example, pots with faces then pairing it with trailing plants so it will look like long locks or hair.”
The decorated pots helped Angela sell her plants a lot faster. “It gained a lot of attention as no one—or maybe just a few—were offering those then,” The Stalk Market PH adds. “It even attracted some celebrities, and I was very thankful for that because they also share the plants in their Instagram stories.”
Investing in Knowledge
Aside from the painted pots, another online business idea that Angela focuses on is the customer experience she provides her clients.
“Keeping customers happy was a challenge since the life of the plant would really depend on the environment they are in,” she admits. “I normally receive feedback from customers disappointed that the plant isn’t thriving so I gave these customers tips on how to care for the plants, if needed. But of course, to give relevant tips, I had to study and research a lot.”
“So in just a short span of time, I read A LOT about plants, studied how to take care of each one of them and memorized the plant IDs,” Angela adds. “I was surprised at how quickly I was able to familiarize myself with them given my zero knowledge then.”
The Importance of Customer Experience
Relying on her previous work experience, Angela makes sure to take steps to ensure that her clients have a great customer experience. First, she is very mindful of how she talks to her clients.
“You speak to them like a normal person would do – but more polite and friendlier,” she explains. “With my years of experience in CX (customer experience), consumers hate generic/robotic/monotonous replies and they feel more valued if they know that they are speaking with a person.”
Angela also ensures that she responds to them right away, which means within just a few minutes. According to her, client interest usually wanes if they feel that they weren’t given proper attention.
She guarantees that her plants are delivered on the same day or on the next business day. “In cases where the deliveries will be delayed, I make sure to inform them ahead of time,” the 38-year-old entrepreneur says. “Most of the time, I book the riders on their behalf to make it more convenient for them.”
Finally, Angela employs another strategic online business idea: perks and promos to entice and retain clients. “I give them perks such as free shipping, free plants, accessories and discounts depending on the number of plants they will purchase or the number of times they have purchased from the store,” she shares.
In fact, during the first anniversary of The Stalk Market PH’s operations, she even introduced a Piso sale where customers would only have to answer fun questions to get the plant for only PHP 1.
“It had a ton of engagement,” Angela proudly points out. “The store gained thousands of followers because of this.”
Lastly, she makes sure that she offers a hassle-free transaction. In fact, she doesn’t require an order form the way other online business owners do.
“All they need to do is to send a message or a screenshot of the plant they want then I’ll gladly provide them the payment details,” she explains. “Once paid, I immediately schedule the delivery. That simple.”
An Online Business Idea that Successfully Transitioned to Post-Pandemic Times
The success of The Stalk Market PH allowed the business to earn six-digit figures at its height. It likewise allowed Angela to expand the business beyond retail.
“We started in retail, but when I decided to supply to several resellers as well, that’s when I said to myself that I can grow this business even further,” she says.
However, now that everyone has transitioned to life post-pandemic, Angela admits that her business is not reaching the same figures it did in the past few years. “Given that people are back in their normal routine, the store has seen a decline in sales in the past few months,” the 38-year-old entrepreneur notes. “But despite the decline, business overall is doing great.”
Despite the decline, she has also begun to reap the benefits of great customer experience. According to Angela, “I was able to retain existing customers and to be honest, almost half of our earnings are from our repeat customers.”
The Learnings She Wants to Share
Angela’s experience of putting up The Stalk Market PH from an online business idea with PHP10,000 capital and transitioning it into a full-time venture has taught her many lessons that aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from.
First, Angela recommends to actually start small. “There is no need to invest huge in terms of capital,” she points out. “Identify your target market and give it a try first.”
She also reminds aspiring entrepreneurs to always do their research. “To be successful, you have to know your products by heart and you have to be passionate about learning new things about it,” the 38-year-old entrepreneur explains. “This will help you grow your product and business even further.”
Aside from this, Angela suggests being your business’s own influencer. This is because in order to build credibility, it is important to let customers know that you believe in your product.
In addition, she recommends that aspiring entrepreneurs should also create a clean and attractive social media page. “I am very keen on aesthetics,” Angela admits. “I make sure that our page doesn’t look cluttered. Make your page/website clean and organized to encourage more viewers and buyers.”
Last and definitely not the least, she advises to follow a system. For a business to run smoothly, regardless of its size, Angela emphasizes that there should always be a system in place – processes should be organized and followed. These processes can include delivery, response time, service recovery, turn around time, and more.
Where The Stalk Market PH Goes From Here
Angela has since returned to working full-time, and The Stalk Market PH now serves as a side hustle for her that she manages with the help of her brother. However, she still works hard to continuously grow her client base.
“We will continue to send warmth and happiness to all plant parents, and we will have new and more plant options for everyone, so stay tuned,” she shares.