Cardiff Character: Sarah Ahmed

Pretty in pink and made exclusively in Wales

Sarah Ahmed designs and sells retro style home and garden articles made in Wales

Sarah Ahmed has always loved sewing, even if she has not studied it or worked in the profession most of her life. She is the creator and designer of a promising brand of products, ranging from pillows and aprons to tea-cosies in the popular polka dot and floral-themed retro style.

Sarah, 45, grew up in Llanishen. Her grandmother, a seamstress, was her role model. She enjoyed sewing from an early age, and was always top of her class in her needlework. Despite the obvious interest, she became an office worker, after the wishes of her family. Working for NTL in Cardiff Bay 12 years ago, she met her husband Deen, and they have been a couple ever since. Together, they founded Pink Daffodil Ltd in 2009, a company with a definitive Welsh touch. While Sarah is the boss and comes up with the designs for the products, Deen is the “computer-literate” and manages the website and online sales.

It took a lot of work to get the business to where it is now. Other than developing the designs, “we changed the logo a lot. One of our main distributers in the beginning wanted it as a straight label, but it didn’t look right. So we said, ‘Actually, we’re in control here; we’re the ones with the initial product. This is what we want, so if you don’t like it, that’s fine then, don’t have us.’ So we changed it. We wanted something Welsh; pink is my favourite colour, so we had to have pink in there, and the daffodil is the emblem of Wales. It’s a little different, and it’s not like any name on the high street.”


Meet the Maker

One of Sarah’s highlights of the job is that people are starting to recognise them. “It’s quite exciting. We regularly supply at a Wyevale Garden Centre, and we were at Caerphilly Cheese festival in July. This lady came along, picked up a product and thought we were copying somebody else. She said, ‘Oh I’ve seen this in the garden centre in Wyevale,’ in such a manner that I was a bit taken aback. But I said, ‘No, actually I am the person,’ and she was taken aback because how often do actually meet the maker?”

It is very unusual to meet the designer of a product today, informs Sarah, but she herself likes to be at the front, meeting people. It is important to her to maintain a personal connection with her customers, and she likes getting feedback from them. For her, the only way to improve is through the customer. She is always open to new ideas, and she enjoys it when people recognise the effect of that in a new product.

For inspiration, Sarah credits her grandmother first and foremost. She does look at other competitors to see where the fashion trends are going, but she is not a copy of Cath Kidston and co. “I tend to think outside the box. I take the basic direction of what’s out there, but then I say, right, how can I do this differently?”

“People do think we’re Cath Kidston, but we’re not! Firstly, we’re made in Wales, and that’s something to be proud of. Secondly, we’re a lot cheaper, because we don’t need to ship our fabrics in and out of the country to finish them. It’s all produced here, locally.”


Busy, busy, busy

When Sarah and Deen distribute their products, they like to go for individual shops rather than the high street range. This is where the difficulty lies, explains Sarah, because some small shops tend to go for the bigger, established brands that may sell better. Yet they tend to forget that big brands also started small originally. “The shops are not doing themselves any favours by not supporting local products”, frowns Sarah.

Pink Daffodil has kept Sarah busy for the past two years, but she does not see this negatively. Although there were occasions where things got stressful, she has never given up. Instead, she uses these situations to get organised, make a plan and get it done. She loves that it is “busy, busy, busy,” and she cannot get away from it, she is always stitching or sewing wherever she is. However, she is hoping for a short break after Christmas to go to Brighton for a day. “But,” she sighs, “holidays are mostly our busiest time.”

The next two months have a lot in store. Besides a stall at the Cardiff Christmas Market, Pink Daffodil will also be at a sale organised by Cadwyn, the Welsh version of Amazon, in St. David’s Centre. But Sarah prefers it to be busy. Her wish for the future is to become known throughout the world as a successful label, but always retaining that personal Welsh feel.