New Years Day, 2020, Angie and I were traveling in Cambodia visiting the ancient and magnificent sites of Angkor Wat. We rode on a tuk-tuk at 4am to reach the park’s entrance to watch the first sunrise of the new year. It was peaceful and quiet, the red sun reflected off the surface of the large pond in front of us, it rose slowly to illuminate the beauty of the world. A local shopkeeper came to offer us coffee. We sipped hot, instant coffee and as the sun rose, I closed my eyes and wished for health, love, and happiness for 2020. New years are new beginnings, and 2020 was no different. 2019 was a banner year for Poketo, we had just published our first book, the business was taking off, we prepared for continued growth in 2020. Little did we know, just a few short months into 2020 a global pandemic would change it all.

Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Angie and I started Poketo in 2003 with the idea that art and creativity should be a part of everyday life. It was just the two of us, we created one product in collaboration with artists. That one product over the years has turned to hundreds as we kept striving to infuse art and everyday things into our everyday lives. We started online and slowly over 17 years opened up 4 retail stores in Los Angeles and the products we designed were carried by stockists all over the globe. Poketo is independent to the core, Angie and I are husband and wife, deeply involved in the day to day of the business, doing everything ourselves from designing, marketing, sales, and operations with our small, creative, but mighty team. Our team's creativity and ingenuity bring so much fun and diversity to Poketo, we are more akin to a close knit pod, moving in sync towards whatever brings us joy.

What we thought would be a two week break to squash the virus has been months long challenges ranging from the pandemic, racial inequity, social injustice, and a lack of leadership that feels like a wide chasm dividing us rather than uniting us as a global community. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, staying in business has been a struggle. It always is for small businesses, Poketo survived the great recession of 2008 and now faced with the pandemic of 2020, we have had to pivot again—decisions ranging from downsizing our team, reducing our retail footprint, closing 2 of the 4 retail locations, and trying to do more with less—all simply to survive as a business.

And we are still here. Thanks to the amazing outpouring of support from you, our loyal customer. I love seeing online orders come in from our customers, often asking how we are doing, how they can help. There was a real concern for us and our survival. Angie, Eric (COO), and I were the only three people packing your orders, tagging you on social, writing handwritten notes in each order all to display our gratitude for you. Our former team of 20+ were no longer in the office, but many working behind the scenes from home, creating our marketing, designing future products, keeping the creative side of Poketo going. It breaks my heart that we’ve had to shrink our team because of the pandemic, but also grateful for those that have been able to stick with us…. Unsung heroes that are behind the scenes in everything we do. (Adrienne, Becca, Christina, David, Eric, Hazel, Jimmy, Lily, Stephanie… we love you.)

Poketo has changed, we’ve had to, and we will continue to. The tunnel is long, but my inherent optimism sees the light. Personally, these past several months have put life and business into perspective, it has shown us what is important, to strip away the noise, to focus on what is important—celebrating birthdays is everything, dancing to good news is everything, making home cooked meals is everything, air hugging is everything, yoga at home is everything, checking in with friends is everything—keeping healthy, happy, and creative is what’s important. It’s a tall order, it’s not easy and we have a long road ahead of us. It brings me back to the importance of community. It will take all of us to envision a life not solely focused on me, but us.

The pandemic is affecting each of us individually and all industries from entertainment, restaurants, events, and retail are all taking a hit. We at Poketo are grateful for your continued support not only for this small business, but all small businesses now and in the future. I want to see us get out of this mess not just surviving, but thriving as a community. It will take all of us to envision a better world and will require a concerted effort to put our own time, energy, and resources towards people, places, and causes that make a life worth celebrating. As we enter 2021, I will watch the sunrise again, and my wish will remain the same. HEALTH, LOVE and HAPPINESS… for all. Until then, happy holidays, and new year to you all. 

-- Much love and respect, Ted Vadakan