Sustainability and a focus on environmentally friendly products have dominated headlines in recent years, as people become more aware about the harsh realities of global warming and climate change.
With this in mind, Chris Mercieca and Ġorġ Vella, who were University of Malta students at the time, set out on a project that would see them combine creativity and personality with sustainability and environmental awareness, through Happy Pot.
Launched earlier this week, Happy Pot is their new business venture that makes fully customisable and sustainable plant pots from recycled bioplastics.
Speaking to WhosWho.mt, Co-Founder Chris Mercieca explained the main idea behind Happy Pot, and what its primary objectives are.
“Until around this time last year, my idea of a plant pot was a brown, boring shell made of clay and flimsy plastic. Today, it’s everything but that. I got tired of seeing beautiful plants in pots and planters which don’t do them justice, so I figured there’s a market for pots with some personality,” he said. After some time playing around with Apple’s Keynote app, putting together a few artworks, he “landed on the name” and then “the story kind of told itself”.
Him and Mr Vella “toyed around with the idea of making this new-and-improved pot as cool and unique as possible”, yet they knew that whatever the end product would be, it simply had to be sustainable. After they decided to use 3D-printing, “a new level of versatility” was unlocked, and commercialising the idea was a realistic goal.
“Today, Happy Pot is probably the most customisable pot on the planet. 14 base colours and limitless badge options means there’s a Happy Pot for everyone,” Mr Mercieca said, before adding that it is also “super sustainable” as recycled bioplastics are exclusively used to make the pots, while they're wrapped in recycled packaging to reduce harmful waste in landfills by providing a more sustainable alternative to single-use plastics.
And the reaction has so far been “overwhelmingly positive,” he added. “Everyone seems to love the idea of a vibrant, customisable plant pot, even more so since we’re using it as a means to help the environment. Beyond the product itself, I’ve noticed that people relate to our passion for making the world a happier place. With so many different products available on the market today, very few manage to rally a group of people behind a positive movement, and I think we’re doing a good job of that so far,” Mr Mercieca continued.
It’s been “quite a smooth ride” so far for Happy Pot, through their extensive planning and time taken to develop the concept, as well as guidance they got from “some very helpful people along the way who have helped give us a better sense of direction and fill in the gaps we couldn’t”. Mr Mercieca believes that now that Happy Pot has launched, the “hard part is over”, yet as it grows, “so do the challenges that we face”.
“We’ve set our sights on internationalisation on a massive scale, and we won’t stop until Happy Pot is all over the world, making a difference where it matters,” he added.
Currently, the Happy Pot team is primarily made up of just him and Mr Vella, with the former focusing on operations, product development, and business strategy, while the latter handles the diplomatic side of things, and everything related to sustainability. “We work together closely on most things and are constantly bouncing ideas off of each other. Our mutual friend Luke works in the shadows to orchestrate virtually everything to do with Happy Pot’s marketing strategy, and he’s our voice of reason when our ideas get a little too whacky. We all have vastly different areas of expertise, unmatched chemistry, and most importantly, an open mind,” Mr Mercieca remarked.
Apart from making use of recycled bioplastics to be sustainable, Happy Pot’s fight against climate change also extends to the goal of reforesting 200,000 square metres – which is equivalent to around 40,000 trees) by the end of 2024 through its partnership with UK-based Treapp, which allows users across the world to plant trees where they’re needed most.
“A percentage of the profits from every Happy Pot product sold will always go towards planting more trees, so the more we sell, the greener the Earth gets. Right now, we’re planting trees in 12 developing countries across Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia,” Mr Mercieca said. He added that the goal is “no easy feat” to reach, and they “definitely won’t be able to do it alone”.
Additionally, Happy Pot plans to form “as many green partnerships and collaborations as humanly possible”, and the funds raised from these will go directly into the Happy Tree Fund. Happy Pot hopes that by doing so, more businesses and individuals will follow suit.
When asked about what it felt like to be a young entrepreneur in today’s world, Mr Mercieca pointed out that setting and achieving increasingly challenging goals is “arguably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing”.
“The progress I’ve made on a personal level in the past year is equivalent to hitting puberty 10 times over, but I’m yet to grow a shadow of a beard. There are days when I’m burnt out, exhausted and emotional. I am yet to find a respectable work-life balance, but I’m hoping that’s a 2023 thing,” he continued. He expressed gratitude towards his friends and family who have supported him and made sure he stays true to his values throughout this journey.
“I’m confident in my ability to do meaningful things, but with this newfound love for commercialising great ideas, comes a duty to implement them for the greater good. I now know that my purpose is to leave this planet better than I found it, and I plan on employing this philosophy in every facet of my life,” Mr Mercieca said.
As a message to those youths interested in setting up their own business, he said that “You get used to the water faster if you jump into the deep end. Don’t be afraid of not knowing. The unknown is not a limitation, but an opportunity for growth.” While he highlighted the importance of considering one’s failures to also be one’s “greatest teachers” and to bounce back from them, he added that it is important to be trusting and optimistic, while also remembering “to have some fun along the way”.
Happy Pot Co-Founders Ġorġ Vella (left) and Chris Mercieca (right) / LinkedIn