‘I set up a business with £200 savings in a tiny room during lockdown and now it’s thriving’

Meet the woman who started a business during lockdown with nothing more than a tiny room and £200 in her savings, but now she sells beautiful flower arrangements to people across Wales.

Pei-Yi Hsiao, known to the locals in Pontypridd as Elisa, moved to Wales in 2018 and has since made her mark in a small Valleys town.

Elisa, 37, originally from Taiwan, met her Welsh partner when they were both working in China.

At the time, she worked for an international footwear sourcing company, but she moved to Wales to help her then husband-to-be recover from a liver transplant.

As she started to make a life for herself in Wales, she decided she needed to widen her education to further her employment prospects.

The shop is full of colour and beauty

You can find the shop on Church Street, Pontypridd

Elisa said: “I knew I had to start over and get educated, so I prepared the International English Language Testing System exam while juggling around the hospital visits, and studied most nights by his bedside in the hospital.

“Thanks to the NHS’s special care my partner recovered, and I also had the offer from University of South Wales to study an MBA.

“By the end of 2019, I graduated as a Master of Business Administration, and started a new job as a planner in Caerphilly.

“Not long after Covid hit the company had to reduce production, so they made me redundant.”

But, not one to give up, Elisa decided to use the sudden change in her career path to try something new instead of dwelling on what had happened.

When she lost her job she thought it would be a good time to do something she was passionate about, and this is where the idea for Elyn Boutique Wedding and Flowers came from.

“I always had a passion for flower arranging, and I enjoy making people happy,” Elisa explained.

“I always remember when I was little I learnt many ways of making artificial flowers – from shops and from instruction books.

“Every year my mother was thrilled whenever she received the artificial bouquet especially made by me and, most importantly, she’s kept them all even until now.

“After a few weeks of no job, I discussed the idea with my husband that I would like to take this opportunity to create something I have always wanted – a bespoke artificial wedding flower business.

“I started in a very tiny box room with £200 savings. With a lot of interest and orders, we decided to register a company and Elyn Boutique Ltd was born in July, 2020.”

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Elisa wanted to provide a wedding service that people can remember and cherish, so it offers all wedding-related floral arrangements, bouquet rental service and the business has also started to offer a venue dressing service.

As coronavirus restrictions have continued to ease in Wales, Elisa wanted to be able to help people really experience the wedding of their dreams.

She said there was a lot of concerns about weddings throughout the pandemic due to various restrictions being in place, and lots of brides had to postpone their orders.

The business-owner also faced her own hurdles throughout the 18 months or so.

Elisa said: “We were also facing difficulties to get the material in time.

“We embraced these challenges – using them to become more determined to push ourselves more.

“We analysed, strengthened and improved the business to create a better look and new more resilient processes for the business.

“I’ve travelled so many countries and have so much inspiration from oversea weddings.

“During the lockdown, I spent a lot of time educating myself by taking online floristry courses and collaborating with different wedding suppliers to help each other’s work portfolios leading to being featured in Your South Wales Wedding and Your Bristol Wedding magazines.

“We’ve been involved in several style shoots and spent time to create the various arrangements that enabled us to show my potential customers our ideas.

“I use only high quality artificial flowers to ensure the most realistic look to our bouquets so that normally people can’t tell if it is natural or not in the professional photographs.”

Elisa pictured outside the shop

Wreaths on display at the shop

After creating wedding flowers for hundreds of couples online from at home, Elisa opened her first high street shop in Pontypridd town centre in September 2021.

Due to Elisa’s great success, and the support of the Pontypridd Market Company, Elisa has been able to move out of her tiny room and run the business from a bigger space where customers can pop in and see what’s on offer.

Speaking about what it’s been like to set up a business during a pandemic, Elisa said: “Due to the nature of artificial flowers, our orders were effected, but we were able to survive through 2020 and 2021 because some brides could order and keep them until the big event.

“However, we did notice a lot of sad news from small businesses that had to close due to limited trading and difficulty of getting supply after Brexit.

“People still think artificial flowers are cheap and plastic so we are trying to bring a different perspective to show people that actually artificial flowers can be luxurious and high quality, and they can be an option as wedding flowers.

“Secondly, we’ve explored more opportunities to work with different suppliers to reduce supply chains issues and be able to provide the service to satisfy our customers through tough periods.

“We believed that we would survive, and we would be able to provide a sustainable service going forward, and become a well-established business in the town.”

A sample of Elisa’s work

When you order with Elyn Boutique, each floral arrangement is unique and bespoke to the bride’s vision.

Since January 2022 the little business has noticed an increase in enquiries for weddings in 2023 and 2024, and Elisa said it’s definitely positive to see weddings are coming back.

Not to mention, since opening the little business less than two years ago, the independent floral shop was crowned Winner of The Best Florist 2020 and Winner of The New Business 2021 in The Best Of Welsh Wedding Awards.

“We have a lot of customers coming into the shop and don’t realise they are artificial blooms,” Elisa added.

“The shop really opens their mindset about the new quality of artificial flowers. We also provide home decorations like wreaths and gift options like hat boxes.”

Elisa launched her new business Elyn Boutique in Pontypridd

Elisa said she never imagined life would have brought her to Pontypridd until she met her partner.

She said people have been really friendly and welcoming since moving to her new home, and she’s since learnt how to understand rugby, how to make fish and chips and how to cope with the British weather.

The enthusiastic florist says no day is the same, but that’s what she loves most about working in the business.

When asked why it’s important that people support independent businesses on the high street, Elisa said: “Supporting small business is not just about supporting the business, but also families and dreams.

“Small businesses play a big part in communities and have a real effect on people. In Pontypridd, you can see so many different independent shop owners trying their best to build their reputations and businesses that they try to pass down for several generations.

“Small businesses were established by the characters of the community, and are respected by the neighbourhood. This frequently goes beyond just purchases – it becomes familial, with a personal touch.

“Society is changing and Pontypridd is changing as well. We’ve seen a lot of plans and improvement brought into Pontypridd that offered the options to allow new small business owners to be creative and innovative.

“Pontypridd makes me feel like being a part of a big family – that’s very important to me as a foreigner.

“I never feel left out, but am embraced into the community. That’s the beauty of Pontypridd.

“I hope my personal story will somehow inspire people in some way – where there is the will there is a way. If I can do it, you have a chance as well. Starting a new business is never easy, but very rewarding to all involved.”

Elyn Boutique is open every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 4pm. You’ll find it on Church Street in Pontypridd town centre.

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