To say that COVID-19 have significantly impacted us all is an understatement. Almost all businesses have been badly affected by the spread of the coronavirus, with some having no choice but to completely shut down. For sisters Margot Calaquian-Prado and Mariel Calaquian-Ching, they had to think beyond the box in order to keep their family printing business alive.
At the onset of the pandemic, their company, S+D by Primex provided acrylic barriers and floor distancing stickers to hospitals and establishments. But when things started to ease up a bit, they had to get creative to stay afloat.
Enter S+D Made. It's the sisters' response to the every day needs of people working or learning from home. There are acrylic-made laptop stands, face mask holders, learning materials, and even placemats—all designed beautifully by Filipino designers.
"We had to make use of what we had—the machinery and the people—and learn new things, learn new skills like setting up the website," said Margot.
PhilSTAR L!fe got to talk to the Calaquian sisters to know more about S+D Made and how they intend to grow their business in the future.
How did S+D Made come about?
Margot: [Our family is] actually into printing. The mother company is Primex Printers. It was founded by our dad way back in 1979. We do offset commercial printing, we print flyers, brochures, posters, calendars, annual reports, coffee table books. And then in 2017, we set up a large format printing business, S+D by Primex, which allowed us to print on different substrates. So, not just on paper, we’re able to print on acrylic, MBF, canvas, wallpaper.
Mariel: We set up S+D by Primex to be a one-stop hub printing company. And we catered mostly to corporate clients, both local and international clients. And then the pandemic happened.
March 2020, friends and even doctors approached us if we could make the aerosol boxes. And then, a lot of the patients during the time were intubated. So, in order to protect the doctors, they had a shell made of acrylic. We agreed and then these were donated to different hospitals all over the Philippines. And then, after that, we made acrylic barriers. The ones you see in restaurants, supermarkets, banks. We started selling those and floor distancing stickers.
And then we had the first lockdown lasted that for about two and a half months. So, there was no business for us. And then when we resumed to work, parang naisip namin, “What now, right?” And then we thought because of these acrylic products that made during the lockdown, we said baka we can make products that people—because the need at the time changed to address the work from home setups, online school setups, what can we sell – what can we make to serve these needs? So, we actually saw an opportunity.
Margot: We had to make use of what we had—the machinery and the people—and learn new things, learn new skills like setting up the website.
How do you choose which products to make?
Mariel: We base it on the needs of the people. Like the educational toys was our response to the online learning that the parents were shifting to at the time that probably they needed tools to teach their children. The gadget stands and the laptop stands obviously because we needed a device to make that happen to, I mean for school or for work. And then the face mask box, obviously, because you know we've been using face masks for the past two years. And we said, "You know, let's prettify our sanitation corner." 'Di ba na parang it was so sad? 'Di ba you're opening your facemask box tapos taking out that mask and putting it on. But because now we have such a pretty box, when you open it, kahit papa'no na napapa-smile ka, 'no, na parang, "Aw, it's so nice. Oh, sige, magsusuot na ako ng mask."
Margot: People were also not able to dine out. So at home they just made things a little bit more special.
How do you choose who you partner with? And are there any more artists in the future?
Mariel: Well, the aim really of S+D Made is to work or to collaborate with local artists, because we have so many talented artists out there that probably need an avenue to express their art. Because, actually nakakatawa, on the first year, how we envision the products to be, you know, that they will be perceived as an art piece. We were actually successful, maybe not to all consumers, but to some consumers. Parang they had higher regard even if it was just a tablet stand because it featured an artwork of an artist that they admire. So there was added value to the products.
And plus, humility aside, because we have really top notch printing equipment, then we are able to print the artworks on acrylic or whatever material it is excellently. So it was really a perfect combination of maybe our printing experience, and then the talented artists plus the printing equipment that we have in house.
[Clients] had higher regard even if it was just a tablet stand because it featured an artwork of an artist that they admire.
What else are you planning to make within the year or so?
Mariel: Yeah, wanna expand our work from home or desk set up because people also are finding ways to improve their homes. There have been a lot of renovations, rearranging of furniture, so we want to take part in that.
The focus of the other collection will be wall art. So that when you have your Zoom, your background is nicer, na hindi virtual background, ganyan. And I think also there has been people who have shown more interest in art pieces, wall art. And because we can produce them, we want to be able to make those and make that available in S+D Made.
How do you want your clients to feel when they see your product?
Mariel: The S+D Made promise is that each and every product that we make is proudly printed and made with love in the Philippines.The whole idea is it should be a 100% Pinoy project, a community project or a collaboration. Because we believe in the talent and ingenuity of the Filipino people and the coming together of Filipino talents to come up with a really beautiful product.
So the takeaway that we want is that, people see it as a beautiful and functional piece that sparks joy. Even if it was a small item, but when they see it in their desk set up, office setup at home specially at the time na people were so sad, things were so uncertain and that it is able to spark joy and make people happy.