MANILA, Philippines — Every 8 in the morning, Caren Joy Sotto sits at her workstation in her room, turns on upbeat music, and picks up a bunch of dried flowers from her stock. One by one, she takes pieces of dried blooms, binds them with floral wires, and wraps them with jute cloth and other materials, creating a bouquet arrangement to be sent to her clients.
It has been seven months since Sotto’s days have changed from a typical eight-hour full-time work to moments she can put her creativity to good use arranging flowers to last not just for weeks but years.
Sotto, 27, started her small business, called The Parched Blooms, only last January, but it has always been her dream to start her own venture.
“It has always been my dream to have one (business). Sabi kasi nila, kung saan ka inclined and passionate, ‘yun ‘yung gawin mong business. I know bata pa lang ako na I’m into arts and design but I did not have any idea yet what kind of business I should venture on,” she told INQUIRER.net in an interview.
(It has always been my dream to have one. They say you should have a business in the area you are inclined and passionate about. I know since I was young that I’m into arts and design but I did not have any idea before what kind of business I should venture on.)
Then one day in January, an idea suddenly came knocking at her door. Sotto at that time had a sunflower, which she had wanted to keep but eventually withered after weeks.
Fueled by her desire to keep the flower last longer, she searched for ways on how flowers can be preserved. While browsing the internet, she saw beautiful images and videos of dried blooms.
“I became interested with it noong time na ‘yun, na pwede pala maglast ‘yung dried flowers for years,” said Sotto, who also admits being a “plantita.” “Naisip ko, parang pwede itong gawing business kasi pwede ko rin maipasok doon ‘yung passion ko for arts and design, so why not combine ‘yung plants and design and also the flowers?”
(I became interested in it that time upon learning that dried flowers can last for years. I thought I could use this as a business where I can apply my passion for arts and design. So why not combine plants, design and flowers for a business?)
But Sotto did not immediately start her business. She spent time thinking about it and came across Jeremiah 12:4 in the Bible. The new international version of the verse reads:
“How long will the land lie parched
and the grass in every field be withered?
Because those who live in it are wicked,
the animals and birds have perished.
Moreover, the people are saying,
‘He will not see what happens to us.’”
Sotto was stricken by the word “parched.”
“Sinearch ko sa internet, ano ba ‘yung meaning ng ‘parched’? Sabi sa Google, ‘dry.’ Saktong sakto. Ang galing, kasi first time ko siyang pinagpray and sakto ‘yung lumabas na Word. Ako rin mismo, na-amaze ako. Sabi ko nun, mukhang ito na ‘yung business na pinagpepray ko,” she added.
(I searched the meaning of the word “parched” on the internet. A Google search showed it means “dry.” I was amazed because it was the first time I prayed for it and the Word I received was a fit. I told myself that maybe this is the business I am praying for.)
And thus, The Parched Blooms was born.
Juggling business and work
Sotto’s brand has two meanings: first, “the parched blooms” which literally means dried flowers, and second, “the parched blooms” which means what is dead or dry can still live and bloom again.
At present, her business offers dried flowers—arranged or not—individual bouquets, and bouquets and boutonniere for weddings. These products also come with a vase, personalized letter for the recipient, and optional fairy lights.
Sotto currently manages The Parched Blooms alone and does tasks ranging from creating flower arrangements to marketing, even as she maintains full-time work as a human resource specialist. She fondly refers to herself as “an HR by profession, but an artist by passion.”
She admits it is challenging to juggle her time as a business owner and employee. But, she manages to wear both hats. In order to balance the two responsibilities, she focuses on her business in the morning before her 11 a.m. work, then returns to her business after her shift at 8 p.m.
Despite difficulty in pursuing the business, something gives the young entrepreneur a sense of fulfillment.
“‘Yung part na when the receiver or the client mismo receives the product and they will tell you na nagustuhan nila, nagandahan sila or natuwa sila sa product. This is one of the most fulfilling part as a designer, na ma-appreciate nila ‘yung ginagawa mo,” she said.
([I am most satisfied] when the receiver or client receives the product and tells me that they like my product. One of the most fulfilling moments for me as a designer is when they appreciate my work.)
The Parched Blooms is an online flower shop at present. But it could turn into a physical store in the future, which is Sotto’s dream.
For Sotto, The Parched Blooms serves both her and her clients. It allows her to put into practice her passion for the arts and design and helps brighten up the day of people who receive her products, especially amid the gloom of the pandemic.
When other responsibilities get tough, turning dried flowers into works of art also becomes her “stress-reliever.”
“While I am doing the bouquet, nagiging happy ako while I am doing it. Nagiging stress-reliever ko rin siya and it is very therapeutic for me. And while I am doing these things, nagpoprovide din siya sa akin ng extra income,” said Sotto.
(While I am creating the bouquet, I also get happy while doing it. It becomes my stress-reliever and it is very therapeutic for me. And while I am doing these things, it provides me extra income.)
Launching a business at a young age taught Sotto a bunch of things. First, that she should always have passion and purpose in pursuing her craft, and second, that achieving goals always comes at a price.
“Isa sa mga natutunan ko sa Parched Blooms, when you are doing something, you should do it with passion. Also, dapat may purpose ka why you are doing it kasi at the end of the day kung wala kang purpose in doing it, pwedeng sa gitna, madali kang tumigil or magsawa,” she said.
(One of the things I learned at The Parched Blooms is when you are doing something, you should do it with passion. You should also have a purpose why you are doing it, because at the end of the day if you don’t have a purpose, you will easily give up in the middle.)
“Another lesson is nothing worth having comes easy,” she added.
Sotto has classic advice for people who want to start their own business. First, to identify initially where you are passionate about to avoid frequent burnout along the way, and second, to determine the purpose of starting your own business venture.
“What is your purpose why you are doing it? How can it help other people and how can it help the community? Kasi this is the thing na hindi nababayaran ng pera. Kung puro pera ang purpose, it might not last or pwedeng magsawa ka along the way. Passion and purpose and puhunan,” she noted.
(What is your purpose for doing it? How can it help people and how can it help the community? This is something that cannot be paid by money. If your sole purpose is to earn money, it might not last or you may get bored of it along the way. Passion and purpose are the key.)
Pursuing a business might be hard, but Sotto says she’ll press on, looking forward to what is ahead.
“I know na mahirap din siya talaga kasi it takes a lot of commitment when you are doing the business. Hindi siya madali pero I know that at the end of it, it will all be worth it,” she said.
(I know it’s hard because doing the business takes a lot of commitment. It is not easy but I know that at the end of it, it will all be worth it.)