It was P2,000 that turned Ros De Vera-Queja and Vincent Queja’s dreams a reality. The couple founded Cactus and Canvas, an up-and-coming local gift shop that produces all types of souvenirs–from wooden clocks to special plant arrangements.
In eight years, the Quejas have amassed a roster of clients ranging from corporations like ABS-CBN and the Bank of the Philippines Islands, to government agencies and non-government organizations like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Philippines Red Cross.
Their small business is one of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that participated in Maya Business’ “Scale Up: The Show,” a series that aired in One News Channel, in partnership with PLDT Home Biz and Shopify.
Here’s how the Quejas stretched their P2,000 and turned it into the growing business that is Cactus and Canvas:
1. Make sure to focus on doing something you love.
Cactus and Canvas was just a beloved hobby that was developed into a business, the Quejas share. It was the love for plants and woodcraft that propelled them to scale up and expand, Ros says. Vincent started out as a collector of succulents and cacti—before plantitos and plantitas were trendy.
“He thought of gifting his college thesis mate cactus on cute pots as souvenirs during his wedding in July 2014,” Ros shares. “He got a lot of inquiries and orders and started to offer it online.” Since then, Cactus and Canvas has become a mainstay in several bridal fairs and expos, introducing their woodcraft and plant arrangements to more clients.
2. Learn to be flexible and resilient.
Much like all businesses, the 8-year-old Cactus and Canvas had to pivot when the pandemic hit. Growing and scaling up amid a volatile economy was a challenge for the Quejas, but they managed to shift from retail to e-commerce during the lockdowns.
“Flexibility and resilience are key,” Ros shares. Cactus and Canvas shifted retail items to online selling when the lockdowns closed down their physical kiosk and made events almost impossible to hold. After joining Scale Up: The Show, the couple even set up an online store in Shopify and reinforced its social media presence. With more Filipinos preferring to pay via cashless means, they also equipped their business with the capability to accept all types of digital payments via Maya Business.
3. Believe in your products.
Cactus and Canvas takes pride in the fact that all their products are locally produced and sustainably sourced. This belief and trust in the quality of their work has taken Cactus and Canvas to great heights and has also led to amazing products such as their Acacia craft line, which has evolved into many different offerings with the times.
“During the pandemic, when people were forced to stay at home and cook at home, our Acacia boards of different shapes and sizes became a hit,” Ros says. Cactus and Canvas also introduced new products such as their Acacia lamps, and are promoting their laser engraving service.
4. Go outside your comfort zone.
“We consciously and mindfully strive to offer something better: better in terms of improving our products and service and by expanding our product line. To stay relevant, we know we need to continuously grow, sometimes even going outside of our comfort zone,” Ros explains.
With this mindset, the two were able to put up a kiosk in one of the busiest malls in the Metro. Their branch at SM North Edsa.
5. Take care of your customers.
The Quejas take care in knowing their clients well, making sure their stories are preserved in their products. “Our first bride and groom, Mheo and Nix Soriano also happen to be our first followers on TikTok,” Ros shares. The Quejas have also worked with celebrity chefs Chef Gino Gonzalez and Chef WadoSiman Tan, who have ordered Acacia chopping boards from the brand four times.
Cactus and Canvas makes sure their products meet the high standards of their customers, ensuring their loyalty and good feedback. The brand also works with organizations like Mason, which has chapters all over the country, bringing their products on the nationwide stage.
6. Don’t be afraid to dream big.
“We take on the challenge of pushing through with our plan to have a souvenir café in Fort Santiago, Intramuros,” Ros says. “Not only will Cactus and Canvas items be showcased, but we also plan to feature local artists and their products.”
The brand also dreams of launching kiosks in different malls and retails stores nationwide, outlining a detailed plan for Cactus and Canvas’ future, including tapping government agencies and corporate clients.
7. Find guidance and listen to advice.
In their quest for Cactus and Canvas’ next step, the couple joined Maya Business’ newest series “Scale Up: The Show,” where they competed with 15 other Pinoy entrepreneurs for seed capital worth P150,000, and a grand prize of P500,000 in the finals.
The couple managed to impress the three business mentors: Maya Chief Marketing Officer Pepe Torres, Tiny Buds co-founder Lorin Tan, and Boozy PH CEO Miguel Guerrero, and took to heart the advice they had to offer.
“We have multiple plans lined up in the coming months. This is all thanks to the boost in confidence that the show (Scale Up) gave us and the guidance that the investors have shown us,” Ros says.
“Scale Up” is presented by Maya Business, in partnership with Shopify and PLDT Home Biz. Catch the previous shows on bit.ly/ScaleUpShow and get inspired by the modern entrepreneurs’ passion, hard work, and possibilities with Maya Business.