By MARIA CECILIA O. PAGDANGANAN
THERE IS no greater joy than sharing with others one’s gifts and blessings. For Angel Gwyneth Aranton, she gladly shares the joys of gardening through her online business, Tita Anne’s Garden.
Angel’s love for gardening started at a young age. In her elementary years, she used to get scolded for picking plants from her school’s garden and bringing them back home to replant.
Motivated by the love and support from her family, she worked harder in honing her craft. She now enjoys spending hours under the scorching hot sun, carefully watering her flowers and trimming dead leaves.
The sociology student is always eager to share her gift with other people. Angel recalls that before the COVID-19 pandemic, she would come home after a long week of classes with a new pot of plants on one hand and a bag of soil on the other. It was her way of encouraging her mother –– who is also a budding gardener herself –– to improve on her gardening skills. However, as the pots of seedlings quickly multiplied in their garden, they realized that their space could not accommodate the growing number of plants.
It was then when Angel had a eureka moment. Since gardening was her source of joy, why not share it with other people?
Dedicated to Tita Anne…
Angel started selling plants last October 2019, although it was not yet under the name of Tita Anne’s Garden. The business’ name only really came to fruition in June of this year. She decided on naming the online store after her own Tita Anne, saying, “She’s like my second mom since she also took care of me [since] I was young.”
Although Tita Anne currently lives in New York, their relationship has not wavered at all –– their bond is that strong. When Angel stayed up late at night to tell her that the store would be named after her, Tita Anne was rendered speechless.
“I told her I will do my best to send her home, so in the future, she doesn’t have to work a single day anymore,” Angel recalls. Her tita’s sacrifice fueled her to work harder in both her studies and her business.
With the store’s name finally secured, Tita Anne’s Garden formally opened its doors for business last June 26. However, it was far from easy. Early on, Angel worked with a marketing team but due to conflicts in interest, they had to part ways. Aside from that, the business had to deal with a drastic increase in plant prices. There was even an instance during the second lockdown when Tita Anne’s Garden had to postpone deliveries for two weeks.
Despite the challenges faced, Tita Anne’s Garden continues to thrive. The team, which now comprises Angel and her family members, work together on calculating affordable yet profitable prices and conceptualizing new ideas.
Angel’s family have not just been her business collaborators, they also are her moral support. “Whenever we encounter problems we would talk about it during meals and it instantly makes us feel better,” she said.
Outside of her family, Angel can also turn to her friends for help. She noted how they have always been supportive of her and are willing to listen to her when she faces obstacles. Because they are also business owners, together, they can come up with marketing strategies and innovative advertising tactics to help each other succeed.
Business in the new normal
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how businesses are run. Not only must most stores shift to a digital platform, but they must now also observe strict hygiene and sanitation protocols.
Due to quarantine restrictions, Tita Anne’s Garden has used social media to advertise their products. Their Facebook page is filled with pictures of potted succulents and posts of feedback from their previous clients. They even offer tips to their followers on how to take care of their new plants.
Tita Anne’s Garden also did not allow the pandemic to compromise creating strong rapport with their customers. If some of their customers lived nearby, Angel would deliver the plants herself while observing physical distancing. She uses this as an opportunity to answer their questions as well as build customer loyalty.
“Some of our customers would ask questions regarding the plants but since we have to practice the 1-meter apart rule, we tend to speak louder than usual just to understand each other. It’s just funny for me because I would sometimes look so confuse[d],” Angel jokes.
Because her business only started operations a few months ago, Angel is still brimming with new ideas on how to make her business grow. Although Tita Anne’s Garden is currently based in Marikina, they have plans on expanding it to serve farther surrounding areas. Angel also hopes to open a physical cafe before she graduates.
Since opening Tita Anne’s Garden, Angel feels that she has grown more as a person. When asked to give advice to budding entrepreneurs, she says, “Do not focus on where the money is. [Y]ou need to focus on what makes you happy, [and the] money will follow.”
With this mindset, Angel was able to go beyond a gardening hobby. Now she can easily share little pots of happiness to customers who need a boost during this pandemic.
Indeed, this philosophy has ensured that Tita Anne’s Garden will continue to blossom for many years to come. F