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Ottawa entrepreneur sparks creativity through basketball planters

Alea De Castro recently took her project to the kids at the Britannia Woods Community House.

Alea De Castro is finding ways to inspire those in her community through a new art project.

The registered nurse and a multidisciplinary artist created The Pick and Grow in December 2020, which showcases re-used basketballs that are upcycled into basketball planters.

Though these planters appear unique, she says that De Castro says she can’t take all the credit. It was a couple of years ago, that she came across early ideas of planters online, which eventually inspired her to create her own rendition during the pandemic. 

“I had a basketball laying around and I made my first one and it was very basic, you know, I just painted it white, and then the basketball was the plant pot with the plant,” says De Castro. “Even if they weren't esthetically pleasing to see, it's a pretty good way to reuse something.” 

Recently, she took her project to the Britannia Woods Community House where kids had the opportunity to design their own basketball planters. She says that in a time like this, it’s so important more than ever for kids to unleash their creativity regardless of the craft.

“Especially during this pandemic, kids need that creative outlet, to do whatever it is that they want,” says De Castro.

She adds, its rewarding and inspiring to see kids adding their own uniqueness to their project.

“[It’s] that excitement in their eyes [and] that excitement of a new project, and then being able to actually keep it and take it home and show it to [their] family.”

Her love for plants, dance and basketball allows her to not only combine several different elements but also to pay homage to different iconic basketball teams on her planters, which she displays on her Instagram page.

She’s also no stranger to contributing to her community.

From a young age, along with her parents, she’d been giving back ever since to her community, particularly to the Filipino community. De Castro is also co-founder of Moov Ottawa, where (pre-COVID-19), she’d been teaching kids’ dance classes.

Once she launched The Pick and Grow, the response was positive. Her fusion of basketball and gardening is something her customers continue to be fascinated with.

One of the challenges at first, however, was selling her basketball planters as well as experimenting with materials that she’s never used before.

“There was a lot of doubts and trial and error when it comes to materials and time invested, so that portion definitely was new for me,” explains De Castro, adding that the process started to become familiar over time.

“I'm sort of obsessed with making them, I have so many in my house right now. It's a little challenging, but it doesn't overcompensate the actual enjoyment.”

Tapping into different modes of creativity such as hip-hop and street dance from a young age, allowed her to continue that creativity in her projects and future projects as well. She hopes to continue contributing to her community as much as she can, even post-pandemic.

“With all the connections I’ve made within this community, I want to be able to take that and apply to grants and get some funding for this, from like bigger corporations,” says De Castro. “They'll be able to do some funding you know, in terms of supplies or like basketballs or workshops for kids.”

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