Good timing spells success for Pampanga potter

by Myrna Rodriguez Co

first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer Sunday Biz, May 23, 2021

It has been is said that in entrepreneurship, timing is everything. 

You  can have the most brilliant product idea and  the most innovative business model, but if you are in the wrong time and place, you are bound to fail.

Put up your business too early: the  market may not ready for you.  Put it up too late: the market may have become saturated and the opportunity passed.  

Peter Warren Baluyut, 28, who owns and manages Hunter Pots in Santo Tomas Pampanga, credits his success to timing.  “I  had great timing – perfect timing.”

He launched his pottery business, a splinter of a bigger enterprise, five  months into the COVID  lockdown.  People were just then beginning to realize that the crisis would stretch out longer than expected.  Cabin fever and lockdown fatigue had begun to set in, prompting people  to rediscover old hobbies and try new activities. 

Suddenly, everybody wanted to garden.  Which meant everybody wanted shovels and  rakes,  seeds and seedlings and, yes, –   happily  for Warren — pots!

CB Pottery: a background

Warren  belongs to the Baluyut family that owns CB Pottery, famous for world-class quality pots in the province. “CB”  is  Cecilio Baluyut, Warren’s paternal  grandfather who founded the business in the 1950s and grew what was then a small cottage operation  into  an exporting company equipped with cutting-edge technology and operating two factories: one in Santo Tomas and the other in Arayat.    

When he retired from active management in 1994, Cecilio  passed on the reins  to sons Bernardo and Angel, who took over the Santo Tomas and Arayat factories, respectively,.

Cecilio continued to keep an eye on the business from the periphery, advising here and there,  until his death last February at the age of 84.

Bernardo , also Warren’s father, focused on the export market.   He was so successful that by 1998, CB Baluyut Pottery  had become 100 per cent export-dedicated, with Japan as the top destination.      Japan buys so much that they could not accommodate orders from other  buyers  like the USA and Saudi Arabia. 

Warren, who calls himself a “third-generation potter,” recalls his early obsession with pottery.

As a child he  liked to putter around the factory.  He remembers being fascinated with the potter’s wheel and kept turning it until it was almost child’s play.  Before long, the young Warren could make pottery by himself — from step 1 (throwing or shaping clay in the potter’s wheel) until the last (painting and glazing), although he admits he has yet to master firing (cooking the pots in kilns).

  In high school, he spent summers  and off-school  days at the pottery.  He  made myself useful in e-mail transactions, labeling and packing.

In college,  Warren would have wanted to join rhe family  business outright but had to try other fields, on the say-so of his father who wanted him to gain a broader insight into business management. 

Obediently, he took on jobs as insurance agent  and as medical representative.   At the same time, he dabbled in his own small businesses – a bakeshop named  Daily Bread and franchises of Sabon Station and Auto Fabcon.

Fate intervened in the form of the pandemic.  With most of the economy in shambles, CB  Pottery managed  to stay afloat, but needed fortification.  Warren decided it was time to help his father in a major way.

Hunter  Pots; taking on the local market

When he joined the family business, Warren’s priority was to develop the local market “his own way,” which he explained thus: “I bought pots from CB Pottery in volume and resold them using my own brand name.”  At that time, Warren was a -new father and named the brand after his infant son, Hunter Gabriel. With strong social media presence on FB and Instagram, Hunter Pots took off.             

Soon, the pots  were being sold at various outlets, including the  SM and Waltermart branches in the  province and stores as far as Bataan and Zambales.  The pots  could have reached Manila, Warren muses, but “hindi na kaya ng powers ko.”

Warren also built a network of sales partners, including  Plant Depot, Pot Mamma, and Potipotipots, These partners buy his pots in bulk and resell them through live-selling platforms on Facebook and Instagram.   

His products have  become regular features in  trade exhibits organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the  Department of Agriculture (DA), as well as by the San Fernando, Pampanga City Hall.

He  thinks that the  modern and attractive  designs,  that holds  tremendous appeal to the Japanese, is the same attraction  that made his foray into local marketing successful.  “Our plantitas and  plantitos are discerning,”  he quips.  “In the same way, that they keep looking for rare varieties of  foliage, they seek  containers  that look exceptional.” 

Post-COVID, he does not see the gardening trend fading.  “Once you get hooked to the soil, you always go back to dig, sow, prune, harvest.”

Another  competitive edge  is a highly skilled and experienced manpower.  “We have managed to keep our people, despite the competition and the challenges of the pandemic.  The old faces I knew when I was child – I still see them around.” He intends to carry on the practice of treating workers as family, which includes granting financial incentives in times of crisis and organizing company-wide gatherings.

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