Visitors and locals alike are nestling down to enjoy a cuppa and a chat at Aberystwyth hotspots, thanks to a young entrepreneur selling mugs of home-made masala chai from a bike.
24-year-old Sally Pierse launched The Chai Bike in April 2023 with the help of Big Ideas Wales, after discovering that the comforting and community yielding powers of tea aren’t limited to a traditional builder’s brew.
Sally first discovered chai while on a trip to India as part of a BA Philosophy degree at the University of York. Alongside attending academic lectures on women’s rights and Ghandi, Sally was invited to the home of a local woman who taught her traditional Indian recipes, including masala chai.
Taken by the sense of comfort and welcome she felt in the home of a stranger halfway across the world, Sally was inspired to start a similar initiative back home. By choosing to operate completely bilingually through her signage and social media, Sally hopes to grow more confident in her Welsh while encouraging her customers to use it more on their day-to-day sightseeing ventures.
Sally’s healthy, home-made chai is stored on an e-cargo bike and Sally encourages visitors to stick around and make themselves at home by serving the spicy tea, made with locally sourced ingredients like Welsh honey, assam tea, dry roasted spices and fresh ginger, in ceramic mugs.
Discussing The Chai Bike, Sally said: “At first people are quite taken aback as you only usually drink from ceramic mugs at home or in a café – places we feel at ease. But that’s exactly why I offer them. I want my customers to get comfy, embrace the beauty of Aberystwyth and treat these scenic spots like our home – because they are.”
“It’s also really satisfying to see people taking sustainability that one step further without realising it. All of my takeaway cups are 100% compostable and, while I still encourage customers to use recyclable and compostable products wherever possible, I just think ‘why stop there in my mission to be greener?’ The more single-use cups we can save, the better. There’s always more you can do to live a greener life.”
When she’s not cycling around Aberystwyth hotspots on her e-cargo bike provided by Ceredigion County Council, Sally trades at Aberystwyth Eco Hub initiatives, including Aberystwyth eco-clothes swap and the repair café.
Sally said: “I love partnering with such conscious initiatives. It’s a great opportunity to share our plans on how to make Aber a green hub with a thriving community. I truly believe that by working together, we can accomplish this goal.”
In setting up The Chai Bike, Sally contacted Big Ideas Wales, a Welsh Government funded service that, as part of Business Wales, aims to support anyone between the age of 5 and 25 to develop a business idea, including students and graduates, as part of its commitment to the Young Person’s Guarantee.
Sally was partnered with Business Advisor Llinos Price, who she began meeting with for one-on-one weekly, virtual meetings. Llinos guided Sally through the essentials of launching a business, from applying for business insurance, employer liability and permits, to navigating allergy training and how to best liaise with the local council.
As a Big Ideas Wales entrepreneur, Sally was also invited to attend entrepreneurial workshops, network with other young business owners and hear top tips from successful entrepreneurs in a range of industries as part of Big Ideas Wales On Tour. Llinos also signposted Sally to ‘Trading Spaces’, a local event inviting young entrepreneurs to take part in a day of trading alongside fellow businesspeople.
Discussing the support of Big Ideas Wales, Sally said: “Trading Spaces and On the Move really opened my eyes to what life could be like as an entrepreneur. Each event was filled with so much inspiration and encouragement, I didn’t have a chance to simmer in my doubts as they were eased instantly.”
Llinos Price, Business Adviser at Big Ideas Wales said: “It takes a very special businesswoman, with a very contagious energy, to inspire people to stop rushing through life, grab a ceramic mug of chai and put their feet up in Aberystwyth’s most scenic spots.
“Sally is a perfect example of how, by accepting the support that is on offer, you can turn your small dream into a big success. If you take anything from Sally’s story, let it be that we should all appreciate our hometowns and the community within them more than ever, and do what we can to help them thrive. Better yet, why not do it in neon pink!”
In an effort to build local morale and help customers give back to their community, Sally has launched ‘Be a Brownie’. Inspired by her past as a brownie leader, the ‘pass-it-on’ initiative encourages customers to buy a cup of masala chai for a stranger in need and promotes the important brownie pact, “a brownie guide thinks of others before themselves and does a good turn every day.”
Has this inspired you to kick start your business idea? Visit www.bigideas.wales to get started