In November 2017, Vancouver’s Mel Donnett, Abi Avery and Richie Donnett started Crack Pots, a small business that sells punny pots for every gardener.
From, “You grow girl,” to, “Who wears the plants?,” Mel, Abi and Richie cultivate catchy and sassy phrases and paint them on pots of all sizes, perfect for herbs, succulents and other favourite house, or work-space, plants.
With Crack Pots herbing our enthusiasm, we connected with Mel to learn more about the brand’s story. We asked about the relationships between e-commerce and social media, self-care and growth and strategy and change.
Read our full interview below for more:
- How did you coin the name “Crack Pots?”
When we decided to start taking ourselves seriously, we thought we had better come up with a name to call ourselves. Richie, my stepson, suggested Crack Pots and it was like an Oprah moment! Ah ha!
- What inspired you to start your own business selling plants in punny pots?
I sit on the board of a charity that was planning a craft sale last year. We didn’t have enough vendors for the sale and knowing I was as a pretty crafty person, they asked if I could contribute my skills. I have been quilting for years, but since there wasn’t a lot of time to prepare, I decided expensive and time-consuming quilts weren’t going to work. Then, I saw a greeting card with a pun about avocados and it sort of spiraled from there. Thinking of pots, I turned to a friend at work, Abi, and we spent a couple of lunch hours coming up with ideas and designs.
“Succ it Trebek,” a play on my favourite SNL skit, was the first pot and then it snowballed from there. We couldn’t stop ourselves! As we were working towards stocking up for our first show, I decided to get business cards made and start an Instagram account. I’m the kind of person who once I sink my teeth into something, I’m all in!
- Where do you source the plants, puns and pots from?
We used a local plant nursery to buy our pots in bulk for our last show.
The puns come in from all directions. My husband and father-in-law are the living definition of Dad Jokes. They have a literal arsenal of puns available at any time. I often get calls from them when they think of a new pun…some are shinier gems then others! We’ve come up with lots while just turning our minds to thinking of them.
Richie and I came up with, “Party thyme! Excellent!,” while watching Wayne’s World. We’ve also had Instagram followers direct message us with their ideas. The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon in its purest form!
- You have an Etsy store and a growing following on Instagram. How has your presence online benefited your brand?
Participating in craft markets and word-of-mouth have helped us to get our product out there, but without our online presence, we wouldn’t have a fraction of the success we have today. In a lot of cases, when I’ve sent emails to shops to see if they are interested in carrying our product, they want to know our Instagram handle to see not only what our product looks like, but how many followers we have and undoubtedly, how carrying our product will benefit their business. Another form of our success has been online collaborations and on the softer-skills side, getting to know other makers online and sharing tips and successes.
Instagram stories and contests have been the most effective way to connect with our customers. Before the 2018 Make It Show in Vancouver, we did a campaign where we added voting buttons to about 10 puns to see what our audiences liked the best. This gave us an opportunity to engage our customers and immediately know which puns would be our hot sellers. We used this information to create a “herb garden” package where customers would buy three pots with herb puns. We also included the seeds for the coordinating pot.
- As you’ve mentioned, you recently had a booth at the Make It Show. Was this your first time at the show? How did it go?
This was our first time at the show, and it was AWESOME! I’ve been a long-time Make It shopper. I mark it in my calendar and have always bought early-bird tickets for me and a couple extras, just in case. It’s my favourite craft market and to now have the title “Makie” is very rewarding. I feel like I’m part of the family!
We also met some incredibly talented artists and had a great time swapping stories and hearing how they got started and what was next for them.
- Being on Canada’s west coast, where does your audience span? Who do your products appeal to most?
All across Canada. Parents, working professionals, high school and college students – everyone! Our pots are available in our Etsy shop as well as in stores in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
- Is Crack Pots the first business you’ve launched? What has been the most challenging part of the process?
I’ve sort of dabbled here and there over the years. These were mostly quilts, but I’ve also made purses and stuffed toys. This is the first business I’ve worked on that I can’t get enough of. The marketing and social media side of it is my favourite part. It’s fascinating and I find it’s where my mind often wanders!
- How many hours a week do you put into Crack Pots?
It depends on what we are working towards. Before Make It, we were painting pots until midnight for weeks every night. Otherwise, I’m always trying to keep the train moving. So, I’m researching markets, working on the Etsy site and updating our followers on Instagram. Probably about 15 hours per week.
- What’s a day-in-the-life of a Crack Pots founder?
Well, I have a two-year-old who keeps me busy. I’m also a step-mom to four incredible kids, one of whom is a Crack Pot himself, Richie. I’m married to an incredibly supportive and thoughtful man. I also work full-time and sit on two boards: the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild and Helping Hands. [The latter is] a charity run in my workplace to give employees a way to [give back] to local nonprofits by donating or by [investing in] volunteer opportunities.
Crack Pots offers a creative outlet and a way for me and Richie to spend tons of time together. I also love that my youngest son will grow up seeing his mom feeling fulfilled in every corner of her life. He often talks about “the pots” with pride and sense of ownership.
- Since the company launched, how has the brand changed, evolved and grown?
One thing that’s been very rewarding is making the shift from experiencing imposter syndrome to truly feeling like real business owners. We have changed our approach and strategy several times in response to our customers. What they crave and need really is number one. It’s been an amazing learning experience.
- What are some of the selling strategies you used when Crack Pots first launched? Are you still using them? Why or why not?
When we were relatively new and our confidence was still growing, we thought we had to basically give away plants to convince people to buy our pots. After seeing our success on Instagram and Etsy, both of which don’t include adding plants to the pots, we realized that our customers really like us for who we are, Crack Pots!
- What advice would you have for fellow creators looking to start their own business?
Get online, find like-minded artists, go to entrepreneur events. Local Talks is an asset in Vancouver and their monthly meetups were really encouraging for me. Also, Canva is fantastic for marketing. Above all, be proud of what you’re creating.
- Understanding you’re pouring so much time into making Crack Pots happen, how do you unwind and refresh?
I love spending time with my family. It’s my favourite thing to do. Crack Pots has also sparked an interest in gardening that I didn’t’ have before. I’ve been spending lots of time with my boys in the garden, teaching my youngest son about growing our own food. We are looking forward to seeing what pops up in the coming months.
- Self-care is a really trendy thing to talk about and glorify right now. May you tell us, honestly, what self-care looks like to you?
This is a tough one for me. I try to make sure that I’m looking after all things that I’m working on equally, however the two people who often get put to the side are me and my husband. He’s super creative musically and is a professional writer, so sometimes it isn’t until we crawl into bed at the end of the day that we catch up on what is happening in each other’s life.
Self-care is about getting back to your centre and having a solid relationship with my husband is my centre. Nothing makes sense otherwise and moving forward, it will be a priority for me to ensure that remains at the top of every list, no matter how busy I am in other areas of my day.
- Why is it so important for business owners to take a moment for themselves? How does self-care impact a business, in addition to business owners?
Happy maker, happy caretaker! If I can be centred in myself, I can push that positive energy out to my product and to our customers.
- Where do you see Crack Pots a year from now?
I spend a fair bit of time thinking about that. Will our pots still be interesting in a year from now? What else can we do with the brand? It is always going to be pots? Is there something else we can do with the pots? I have no idea, but I’m excited to see what the future has in store!
For more about Crack Pots, follow them on Instagram at @crack.pots. Interested in a collaboration or have a punny idea? Reach out to the team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. In BC and keen check out Crack Pots at a local market? Visit the Crack Pots booth at Spread the Aloha Market on June 2 in Burnaby.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Mel. Truthfully, you had us at aloe and we plant even begin to express our excitement for the future of Crack Pots. We’re rooting for you. Keep looking sharp!