Melany Prima-Boewer’s paper daisies, dahlias, peonies, and roses are well traveled: They’ve been used as home décor, in photo backdrops, and in weddings from coast to coast.
Prima-Boewer is the owner and maker behind Mi Prima Belle Design, a line of handmade paper flowers that she creates in her Manchester home. She was inspired to start making the flowers in 2015 when she was looking for decoration ideas for a daughter’s birthday party. Realizing that the paper flowers might be a way to help pay the family bills, she opened a shop on Etsy.
“As a mom, you’re always hoping to DIY before you spend money,” she says. “I think I found my calling in paper flowers, and everybody responded so positively.”
After dedicating herself full time to Mi Prima Belle Design in 2018, Prima-Boewer experimented with selling on Amazon Handmade, as well as in local stores RF Home Co. and Bonboni Mercantile Co. But when the pandemic hit and her daughters were home doing remote learning, she regrouped and focused on Etsy as her main source of sales.
These days, she works on three to five projects a week, which gives her ample time to focus on her family. “I like the custom order part of my business because at least I can manage my time,” she says.
Prima-Boewer is originally from the Bicol region of the Philippines. She credits her mother, Linda, an elementary school art and music teacher, with instilling in her a love for arts and crafts. “She still is my biggest inspiration,” Prima-Boewer says. “We would cut out flowers for decoration and make banners for her music and art room. She also grew native flowers. Orchids are her favorite.”
Most orders are for wall flower arrangements for nurseries, girls’ bedrooms, and event backdrops. These displays usually include flowers in a variety of sizes, ranging from 6 to 16 inches in diameter. Prima-Boewer also makes bouquets for weddings, which, she says, take longer to make than the large-scale wall flowers.
Prima-Boewer loves to visit Shaw Nature Reserve and the Missouri Botanical Garden with her family for inspiration. “Peonies are my favorite flower,” she says. “They’re so full. There are so many petals, so many varieties. I make a lot. It’s my go-to bouquet-size flower because you can’t go wrong. There are, like, 130 kinds.”
For clients looking for something extra special, she can dye, hand-paint, or add other custom embellishments to the flowers. Though she creates most of her flowers from cardstock and crepe paper, she has also fulfilled special requests for flowers made from fabric.
The many five-star reviews on Etsy are a testament to the care Prima-Boewer takes with every order: “The paper flowers are of high quality and so beautiful. Melany is a dream to work with… She sent me pictures and samples of her work. I had purchased many paper flowers from other companies and Melany’s flowers are by far the best,” a customer wrote in a review from June 2021.
Going forward, Prima-Boewer says, she’d like to improve her business skills and scale up the company. “There’s so much to learn,” she says. “I’m following people [on social media] who started, like me, with one little craft corner inside their house and now have a warehouse.”