The Chinese New Year will be here soon and preparations for the biggest festival in the Chinese calendar are already in full swing.
Business is good for local succulent seller, Kathy Tagok, 41, who has an online shop that specialises in selling succulents and cacti. However, her business is more focused on decorating and creating mini gardens.
“Many people are ordering succulents for the Chinese New Year decorations and orders started to come in January. Even now, the orders are still coming in,” she told New Sarawak Tribune.
For her Chinese New Year-themed decorations, besides succulents, Kathy always uses jade plants, money plants, lucky bamboo and elephant bush.
“Aside from being very beautiful, these plants symbolise prosperity,” she explained.
“For the Chinese New Year-themed decorations, many customers have requested for the wording “Fu” that means blessings or luck. There are others who request for zodiac animals on their plants. For instance, the Lunar New Year 2021 is the Year of the Ox. So, they will request for an ox figurine on their plants.”
Kathy said she received a lot of orders during the festive seasons.
“Some order decorated succulents to their friends or other people as gifts. Others used them to decorate their houses,” she said.
Asked about the price range for the decorations, she replied, “The basic price is RM50. But in some cases, I go by the customers’ budgets.”
Kathy relies on her own creativity in her decorations.
“It’s through trial and error. I try new things to spice up my decorations. I also look for inspirations online,” she said.
“It has been almost two years since I started my business. Although it is currently on an online platform, we are planning to do a walk-in garden in the near future where customers can choose any succulents or plants that they like and we will immediately decorate them on the spot for them,” she said.
Kathy said her husband, Roni Joe Akang, owns the business. He does the marketing as well. My cousin, Winnie Nyanggak, help me with the ideas for decorations,” she added.
She said the business started when a friend asked her to decorate succulents as a gift for someone.
“Proud of my little creation, I posted it on my Facebook page. Soon after, people started to ask me to do succulent decorations for them.
“My business, Sweetie Succulents, made its official debut in Feb 2020 at both Facebook and Instagram,” explained Kathy.
Her official shop page currently has over 9,000 likes and followers. After a lot of people outside Sarawak became interested in her page, she decided to improve and expand her business.
Kathy said succulents had become more popular in Kuching since the first movement control order (MCO) in March 2020.
She said there were over 100 types of succulents and that most of her customers would buy the Echeveria species.
“This species alone has hundreds of shapes and colours. I think people like succulents because they are beautiful and require minimum maintenance.
“They only need small spaces to grow and can be used to decorate small shops and apartments. They can be placed either indoor or outdoor.
“Almost everyone is selling succulents, so the market competition is stiff. This is why I focus on decorations and succulent arrangements as well as mini gardens which are not done by many people here,” added Kathy.
“When we ship out the succulents, we will not include the soil and pot so that the plants can withstand the shipping process for a long time without being watered.
“The prices of undecorated succulents with plastic pots are RM8 to RM10 each. However, customised orders will be charged according to the customers’ budgets,” she explained.
One of the hardest and time-consuming decorations that Kathy had ever made was a succulent Christmas tree.
“The plus side of the 50cm high Christmas tree was that if the customer decided to dismantle it, he or she would have a lot of succulents to repot,” she explained.
Kathy revealed that most of her succulents were imported from Korea, China and Thailand.
“Taking care of succulents is very easy. You must not overwater them as they store water just like cacti. Just water them once a week when the soil is dry. They love the morning sun.
“If you keep them indoor, it is advisable to put them near the windows so that they can get some sunlight for themselves,” she advised.
Kathy said that for a mixed plant decoration, she would put a divider in between the soils. This was to prevent the succulents from being overwatered when sharing the pot with plants that constantly needed watering.
As a successful succulent and mini garden decorator, Kathy has been invited by an organisation overseas to mentor it in plant decorating.
“I will most probably be going there once the MCO is lifted,” she added.