He sacrificed the job he loved to pursue his passion. Today it is returning green areas to cities

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He sacrificed the job he loved to pursue his passion. Today it is returning green areas to cities

March 4, 2021 10 min read

This article was translated using AI technologies from our Spanish edition. Errors can occur as a result of this process.

At Diego Gómez-Bilbao As a child, he loved reading the Time Life encyclopedias at home. There were three chapters that I kept revisiting. He was a little boy who wore glasses that were hard to tell apart, but these volumes had images that caught his attention: fish, insects, and the last, plants.

In these books, little Diego studied the colors, textures and colors of living things because he could not believe the strange shapes that existed in the world. A love for nature was born, which was driven by his family in an almost predestined way.

His Asian grandparents had a house in Cuernavaca, and little Diego saw that they got up early every day to tend their garden. “There I understood that there is no such thing as a good or a bad hand for plants, only surrender,” he says.

As a young adult, Diego put aside his passion for plants and dedicated himself fully to leading a corporate career as a sales consultant for an Asian technology company. His work led him to live in Venezuela and to travel through Latin America. It was a somewhat lonely life, however, and he would often stop at hotel restaurants to see the plants and flower pots on the buildings.

“I asked the people who worked in these places the names of the plants that caught my attention and the companies that made pots, and I wrote them down in a little black notebook,” he says contact Entrepreneur en Español.

Unfortunately, conditions in Caracas changed and for safety reasons the company Diego worked for took him out of the country. This means that he has plenty of time to spare because his customers and contacts were in the southern cone and he had to connect with several countries at the same time on every trip to South America in order to reduce travel costs. In the dead times his schedule allowed, Diego began looking for pots and plants to build a patio in his home.

“I inaugurated my terrace and people asked me about the plants and pots I had. My mother-in-law asked me to get her a plant, then my sister’s friends, my sister-in-law, etc. My house had become an exhibition space, ”says Gómez-Bilbao.

Diego Gómez-Bilbao / Image: Courtesy of Huatan

The day “El Chino” left his office in Montes Urales

At this point, Diego decided to use the contacts He had made during his life and his trip to South America to become a distributor of plants and pots.

“It turned out that the maker of the pots I had seen in another country was from Guadalajara and all of the production was exported because it was believed that there was no market for Mexico because at that time it was in the 2000s Years ago only clay pots were consumed, “points out Diego. “Fiber is very common now, but it didn’t exist then.”

His surprise was capitalized when he was able to place 100 pots in the first two weeks. He realized that there was a business opportunity where he could have direct contact with the decision maker.

“I came from the corporate world where you had to climb the CEO and a number of executives to complete a software sale. In this world sales were direct. Strangely enough, the director I sold the program to bought me pots for his house. “

Diego then opened a small urban design company called Huatan, whose name means “terrace with plants” in Chinese because he wanted to remember it as “El Chino”, a nickname Diego had since childhood because of his slightly slanted eyes. He started a home plant business.

While his business began, Diego continued to work for the tech company from his Montes Urales office. But as the sales of his products progressed and grew, he realized that sooner or later he would have to cut the umbilical cord.

Image: Courtesy of Huatan

In his own words, Diego was lucky because at the age of 25 he was earning in dollars, getting paid for a department and serving as a sales manager for several countries. “I was in a privileged position and it took a lot of work to make the decision,” he says.

The inspiration for the final decision to go on his way came when he understood that for him the peace and quiet that a salary could offer him, the stability with this umbilical cord is great, but this dependency increases over time would.

When considering leaving the company he loved to dedicate to Huatan, Diego reached out to his mentor, none other than the CEO who hired him years ago, and said, “I have this discrepancy in my life. On the one hand, I love what I do here, and on the other hand, I like to sell flower pots. “Diego looked for him to convince him to stay, but his mentor said to him,” Daniel, hunt the plants. If it catches your attention, go for it. But make up your mind and make up your mind now. “

“I will never forget what he told me – for something he is my mentor – because he made it clear to me that things are given to you when you are passionate about something and the more you look for them, the more they come to you. “

The landscape architecture firm that now dresses Mexico City

After this process of detachment, Diego started Huatan in all forms in 2006 and has worked in landscaping for 15 years with the creation, establishment, maintenance and preservation of more than 500 sustainable green spaces that enable reunification with nature.

His office is dedicated to equipping company buildings, retail chains and living spaces with the design, implementation and maintenance of green spaces.

“It’s been 15 years since I started, but it was very difficult. There were times when I didn’t even have to pay my children’s tuition fees. The entrepreneur has to understand that the company comes first before the entrepreneur, ”warns Gómez-Bilbao.

Diego was faced with the reality that he had to learn if he really wanted to be successful in a new but very complicated industry. As a trained industrial engineer, he decided to work in a kindergarten to understand the market.

And it’s not a small market. The US horticulture and landscaping industry is valued at $ 99 billion a year, according to Statista. In other words, a house with a yard spends around $ 500 annually, and the market is projected to reach $ 30 trillion in the American Union alone by 2030.

Huatan is the first Mexican company hoping to enter this industry and why not – as Gómez-Bilbao says – partner with Elon Musk and bring Latin American plants to Mars.

Work that Huatan has done includes an intervention by the hand of graffiti artist Orgullo Bravo in the Chapultepec Botanical Garden during the Mexico City Flower and Garden Festival, vertical gardens, and green interiors for high-end restaurants. Area like Aromas Cotidianos and Blanco Bistro and events like Millesime.

For the following years, Huatan claims to have some projects on the horizon in the United Arab Emirates and Texas, but Gómez-Bilbao hopes to travel to California, Florida and Spain soon.

Image: Courtesy of Huatan

Green options for the “new normal”

Huatan’s work has taken on a new dimension with the sanitation restriction measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, either because cities need more outdoor space to cope with the limitation, or because urban horticulture has become more important to people who want to produce organic food.

For example, restaurants that were previously able to ignore the importance of open spaces had to adapt areas that were not previously used in order to create space for guests and comply with hygiene measures.

“The pandemic has kept us away from other people and from nature,” said Gómez-Bilbao, noting that green spaces offer guests an extra service by giving them the opportunity to interact with plants and natural spaces through green dining experiences.

Dealing with the pandemic is not just a trend, however. The biophilic architecture, which regards green spaces as a central component of its design, is gaining ground. A very clear example is the new Amazon headquarters (in which the brand plans to invest $ 5 billion) or the Singapore Jewel Changi Airport.

Image: Courtesy of Huatan

On the other hand, Huatan’s mission is to bring green spaces to cities. To do this, they also offer two pre-assembled city gardens that people can install and plant in: a greenhouse with a shade and plastic mesh cover that creates its own microclimate and a tutor type with a structure that supports the correct growth of plants and vegetables .

“We are all gardeners,” says Gómez-Bilbao. “All our lives we have planted plants on the roofs, bamboo on the desks, spices in the kitchen, and even beans in cotton wool. We just have to reconnect with the plants. “”