“I knew then that I had something much more than just a cute product. There was opportunity for story.”

                                                                —Jessica Chan

Jessica Chan’s entrepreneurial journey began when she created Winkpens in 2015 as a sustainable, alternative writing instrument. After the first iteration of Winkpens sold out and then fizzled out, Chan explored other passion projects. Inspired by the current market for planters and the succulent trend, Chan discovered a way to combine each with her love of robots. Thus, EcoBots was born.

EcoBots are sleek planters designed to look like amiable robots. Each planter is created using a 3D printer and comprised of PLA—a biodegradable plastic made from renewable resources like sugarcane and corn starch. A small, wiry Ionantha air plant comes with each EcoBot and, when nestled into the planter, doubles as robot hair!

The first time she introduced them at a pop-up shop, her inventory was wiped clean. “I knew then that I had something much more than just a cute product,” she says. Chan wanted EcoBots’ impact to reach beyond that of a consumer good. “There was opportunity for story. Over time, and the more I sat with the concept, it rapidly started coming together. The mission was born.”

EcoBots’ mission includes an integral partnership with the nonprofit, One Tree Planted. For every adorable robot purchased, a tree is planted to help aid reforestation efforts around the world. EcoBots were brought to Earth, Chan says, to encourage humans to practice living more sustainably every single day.

Although EcoBots is thriving, Chan’s story exemplifies the push and pull of entrepreneurship. Winkpens were discontinued because Chan says anything that could have gone wrong, did. Instead of giving up, however, the loyalty of her customers moved Chan to persevere. Now she’s gained a new skill set, deep sense of community, and found what she loves. EcoBots is primarily built on giving back—and that’s what matters most.

Update February 2024:

While EcoBots is no longer Chan’s primary business venture, she remains committed to product design and supporting like-minded entrepreneurs and small business owners. In 2017, Jess founded Night Market Vancouver and subsequently established a permanent brick-and-mortar store, Pop-Local, located at the Vancouver Waterfront. Pop-Local serves as a retail home for local products, showcasing items from over 200 local brands. 

Visit the Pop-Local shop at the Vancouver waterfront, and learn more here: https://www.poplocalvancouver.com/

Storyteller: Emily Prado | Photos: Intisar Abioto