A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with this inspiring young lady – Huiyin Tan, Founder and Creative Director of Echevaria.co, a Singapore-based botanical creative design studio founded in 2020. Besides creating beautiful architectural botanical designs, her unique proposition is to produce designs that last beyond its existence and can be reused or repurposed by clients.
Since 2020, Huiyin has already managed to build for herself a very credible business, making that transition from Architecture to Floristry. In this interview, she takes me through her journey and her process of how she followed her joy and built a business with it. I also took her through some astrological elements of her natal chart for the first time, and how her influences, choices and inclinations were also reflected in her natal chart.
I hope Huiyin’s story gives you some inspiration to take the road less travelled and follow your joy.
Tonya: You’re only 25 years old this year. How long have you been working for?
Huiyin: I’ve been working since 2019, when I was 22. After graduating from Architecture School, I knew that I definitely wanted to take a break from it. School was really mentally and physically tiring. I booked a solo trip to Europe for 3 months. That’s when I did this programme, Work Away. I stayed with two families, one in Denmark, one in the Netherlands for one month each. I got to see how different cultures live their lives and how carefree things (life) can actually be in other countries. It’s a big difference from Singapore where everyone’s goal in life was really just to graduate and find a job.
In the 3 months overseas, I also really enjoyed full control of my life – that’s when I truly had the first taste of waking up and deciding what I want to do that particular day instead of working on an Architecture project. Coming back, that’s where the first thought came in that maybe I don’t want to pursue Architecture anymore. So that’s when I took a break and I started Echevaria as a bouquet business and my first side hustle. I gave myself time to explore things.
When we look at a natal chart, it is actually a combination of many different celestial bodies inside, besides the Sun sign. Whilst Huiyin’s Sun Sign is in Pisces (which is commonly known as ‘the horoscope’.) Your Ascendant sign is in the sign of Sagittarius. It is the way you first interact with the world, but it’s not necessarily who you really are on the inside. So it’s also the first impression that you give to people, which is less of a Pisces, more of a Sagittarius. Sagittarius is fiery. They are explorers, they love to learn and experience life. They’re also very open-minded generally and Sagittarius tend to love things like travel and understand the culture of other countries.
Tonya: You decided that you wanted to do floral bouquets. And this was during the time of COVID, as well, but how did you actually decide on florals and flowers?
Huiyin: Since I was young I’ve always been intrigued by flowers and nature. The first images I took with my camera were also flowers. How I eventually got into this business was, I feel, in a sense, coincidence, but through my relationship with my boyfriend. My boyfriend is the type of person who doesn’t believe in gifting of flowers because of how expensive and impermanent they are. When he gave me my first bouquet of flowers, I was so excited and happy but I also thought it was a waste of money and resources when they died after 1 week. So that was how Echevaria was born – I wanted to find a sustainable alternative to fresh flowers.
Tonya: Interesting. What about architecture? Like how did that come about for you as well? Was it something you just fell into?
Huiyin: Since young, I knew that I love design. I love colours, I love design. I love creating things. The only designing degree that I thought was a professional job was Architecture. I also was influenced by my family because my mom was in the construction industry and she works very closely with architects. She encouraged me into architecture.
Huiyin has a Pisces sun and Pisceans are also very imaginative and artistic. They have a high level of sensitivity to their environments and pick up on things which most people may not pick up on. Inherently though they have very strong intuition and imagination and can be highly creative.
Tonya: So mom encouraged you to get into architecture. But you were saying it’s the only professional thing that you could do? Why was the professional thing important to you?
Huiyin: It’s really just societal pressure that forced me to choose something that was professional. After starting Echevaria, I actually went back to Architecture for one and a half years, because of COVID. And I was really unhappy but I just refused to leave Architecture because I felt like it (Floristry) was not a professional job. I felt that being an architect was more credible. It took me a very long time to accept that I was not happy with my working life and let go of this notion that having a professional title was very important in my life.
Tonya: When you were doing architecture, were you specialising in any kind of buildings? What was the reason for your choice?
Huiyin: I chose residential homes, because I wanted the intimate connection between the clients and the central design. If you’re designing for developers, you’re always designing something very generic – designing for something that’s potentially going to attract a lot of buyers.
Tonya: I see. It’s more of the client behind it, rather than the fact that you were actually designing homes or working on projects involving homes. Is personal space very important to you?
Huiyin: I think it is, because I feel that the comfort of a space makes me feel grounded. Yeah, it’s very important for a space where I can just be myself and feel safe.
The second house shows your attitude towards money – earning and spending it. And what I can see is an indicator that tells me that you actually prefer a very traditional, professional way of earning your money, you want to do something that’s more accepted by society in general. So this is what drove you, I think in the first place to pick that first profession of architecture. Your second house is ruled by a planet called Saturn. Saturn is sitting right here in your 5th house. Saturn is the builder, the structurer, the person who provides discipline, but overall, you can think of someone who gives a lot of guidelines, and can be very strict/disciplined and structured. How you earn your money and get your money, as in pay get paid for what you do is really to be that person who structures something. I can also see that you’ve got a lot of planets (resources) in your 4th house. And the reason why I asked you how you chose residential homes, is because the 4th house represents personal spaces, your personal and intimate life, property, homes, family, your traditions, your history, all that is a lot of words, but basically means your personal life, your personal space, this is very, very important to you. So this might have also been why you chose to do residential projects, instead of commercial.
Saturn is actually sitting in the 5th house. Which is concerned with media, pleasure, romance, entertainment, fun, that’s how you’re going to make your money. It’s more about creative expression, actually. Things that bring people pleasure. If you think about it, that floral business that you’re in, where you’re actually able to express yourself artistically and creatively. Interestingly, you are actually doing mostly events, which are in the entertainment space!
Tonya: How did you get your clients? How did you grow your business?
Huiyin: It was purely through Instagram, where I put my bouquets for sale online. My first batch of orders was for Valentine’s Day and I had a lot of support from friends. Subsequently, it was just through word of mouth and Instagram.
Tonya: On your next sabbatical, where did you go? I think I read somewhere on your website that you went to London to study Floristry. Was it a professional qualification?
Huiyin: I don’t think it’s a professional qualification. It was just a one week course with an established Florist in London. They had a handwritten certificate. <laugh> Despite it being only one week, I think it gave me a sense of legitimacy. I believed in myself more after this course. Because I actually went for a course in a legit school, now I can call myself a real florist.
Tonya: Yes – it came with a certificate. It came with acknowledgement from a legitimate establishment. It seems quite traditional. In contrast to this, there are other people who actually go on YouTube and become an influencer – they actually learn to make money from it. But I don’t think you would find that very comfortable – No certification, no school, no nothing.
Huiyin: <Laughs> You’re right. I struggle with imposter syndrome.
Tonya: There are some astrological indicators that demonstrate the impostor syndrome here and that’s represented by the planet Saturn in your chart too. Sometimes Saturn may indicate a need for external validation for your abilities, usually in the form of an award or a certificate.
Was there a major dramatic kind of turning point for you where you decided that you were going to do the floristry business?
Huiyin: There were 2 significant incidents that made me decide to live my life the way I do – the sudden death of my grandma, and the second was the sudden diagnosis of cancer for one of my friends. It was a shock to me because we were both 21 years old. And your adulthood begins at 21. It’s the most exciting year of your life. It made me wake up and wonder, if this was to suddenly happen to me, am I living my potential life?
When I got this news, I told myself that I needed to stop thinking that there’s always next year or next month and postpone important things that I want to do. I really hold this very close to my heart all the time. I try to live without regrets.
I think youth is such an underrated privilege. It’s so important to cherish it. It’s so important to try and fail now rather than later.
Tonya: Wow. Very, very amazing. So there was that one turning point. That’s how you decided you wanted to start Echevaria, then you had your full time job as Architect and your side hustle. At what point did you decide that you just said, “Okay, you’ve got to do this full time.” How did it play out for you?
Huiyin: What made me ultimately decide to leave the industry was that everyone on the job was just very jaded. Most lunchtime conversations were about when are you going to leave the company, what’s your next step? It was very demoralizing hearing it all the time. What I didn’t enjoy the most was the lack of control. I was forgoing a lot of my social life. Long hours often meant that I couldn’t meet my friends for dinner. I could not go out and exercise with my friends. Physically and socially, I was deprived. I finally decided to leave and find things that really made me happy.
Tonya: Was there a plan in place for yourself? A roadmap maybe?
Huiyin: The plan was to take three months off. My boyfriend also left his job as he was trying to build something of his own. We wanted our mental head space to be very clear. One thing led to another and the three months became six months. Honestly, in the first two months when was in London, I was very lost – I still hadn’t accepted the fact that I didn’t want to be an architect anymore. I was still clinging onto the idea that maybe I could be an architect in London. But then it didn’t work out because Covid and restrictions.
I finally decided to just do something and I signed up for the floral school. I realised that there’s so much potential in me to do Floristry. I loved it so much and I saw parallels within the area of design. To me floristry and architecture are very similar, just spatial planning with different media. I just thought I could try this out as a profession. For all you know, I might just thrive in it. I think it really paid off really well <laugh>.
Tonya: Definitely. I think many people actually don’t want to take that risk to just hop on it and just follow their hearts, follow their joy. That’s why I’m also conducting these interviews now because I want to give other people this inspiration that life just seems to be much more satisfying when you follow your heart.
Huiyin: I really agree with you. What’s most important is really just taking that first step to even exploring what you may be interested in. You don’t have to leave your job if you don’t know what you want to do yet. Take a course, try pottery, or maybe you like coaching or mentoring people.
In this journey many friends also told me, “Oh my God, you’re so brave – how’d you decide to just like take this six month long break?”. Honestly, I’m only 25 years old – I think youth is such an underrated privilege. It’s so important to cherish it. It’s so important to try and fail now rather than later. This is advice I tell myself all the time. <Laugh>. I really agree with you, with what you said about how it’s so important for people to find purpose, find things that they’re interested in rather than be caught up in their own negative thoughts.
If you’re interested to know how you can use Psychological Astrology to understand your strengths better and make that leap into a career or business that’s more fulfilling, contact me for a short, no-obligations discovery call with me today.