“What If” a business can upscale old stuff?
Mae Escartin

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA—Even after several years, that simple lunch date where they talked about artistry still amazes this couple. On that day, they wondered about many what ifs – and the name stuck.

These two were also in love with the environment and wanted to build a business that also reduced wastage.

Tita Baluso-Rimando and Melody Chua-Chan created a company called What if? By Ti & Me Handiworks Co., a concept born out of a simple idea of turning old things into new ones, a concept called “upcycling.” Unlike recycling where the same item is almost always re-used for the same purpose, upcycling turns an object into another item. The company essentially upcycles scrap materials into useful products such as door stopper, bottle sling, pillows, and others.

They started with their “Katuwaan” products, which were just quirky stuff that they first though of that would sell. They initially thought that their “Katuwaan” products would sell to a limited number of people in bazaars, until they realized that some people would buy quirky items en masse. According to Tita “Katuwaan” were limited and exclusive only to each bazaars they joined in..

“Since our business started with daydreaming one of the challenges we encountered until now is focus on what products we really wanted to sell. Sometimes we have customers coming to us asking the availability of specific items that they saw in bazaars. But because these were limited, some weren’t able to make any other purchases,” Tita explained.

Despite some setbacks, they pushed on and even created two new categories; “Homebound,” which were products that could be used inside the house; and “Outbound,” which are composed of products that could be used when travelling “Katuwaan,” remained as their staple where they can make products that would just come to their minds.

Another challenge was the lack of manpower. Because they were only two people accommodating the needs of a growing number of consumers, they could not keep up with demand So they sought help from others. That’s when they met the handicapped residents from the Rehabilitation Sheltered Workshop under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“Our business also became an advocacy promoting green living, recycling, and upcycling and at the same time empowering these handicapped residents of the shelter. We go there to teach them how to make our products and explain to them where the product will go, ” Tita said.

Their products are sold for P20 a piece and above. These are all unique and limited – there are few items that are the same. Among their products are bottle slings (P150), travel blanket (P350), door stopper (P250), throw pillow (P100), wind chi (P150.00), and many more.

When asked to give their advice to those who want to open a business, they smiled and said that opening a business especially like theirs must come with passion and liking what you do. At the same time, entrepreneurs should not be content with what they already know and must continue to tap into their imagination, and innovate.

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