MEI Pen might just be the highest-qualified small business person in Bournemouth.

But then, she doesn’t see her frozen yoghurt and bubble tea brand Yobu as a stand-alone cafe.

“I’m not a small business owner. That’s not my mindset. I started small, yes, but my goal is to expand nationally and internationally. You’re going to see Yobu as an international brand in five to 10 years,” she says.

Originally from Taiwan, she went abroad to study pharmacy and gained an MBA from one of the top business schools in the world, the Wharton School in Pennsylvania.

“For about 15 years, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry in different countries,” she said.

She worked in Taiwan, China, the US, Korea and Turkey before settling locally. “I moved here in 2010, living in Ringwood,” she says.

“I’m in my 40s, I don’t want to travel so much for business. I decided to start my own business but it took me some time to decide what to do. I really enjoy interacting with people so a retail business is a good one.”

She decided Bournemouth had the right profile for the launch of her own business idea – a cafe selling the bubble tea she had grown up with in Taiwan as well as frozen yoghurt.

Bubble tea is a cold drink in a host of flavours, with lots of tiny juice balls at the bottom. The long list of possible combinations is part of the fun. Frozen yoghurt is “a much healthier dessert than ice cream, in my opinion”.

Mei hit on the idea of combining them in one business, creating the name Yobu as a short form for the two products.

She believed Bournemouth’s young urban population, together with its high number of tourists and overseas visitors, made it the ideal place to launch.

The shop is in Gervis Place, in a shop unit that had recently been turned into a kebab shop for the horror movie K-Shop.

Her business knowledge convinced her not to skimp on branding and promotion in the early days. She commissioned a logo, chose the brand’s colour scheme, bought second hand travel books for the shelves of and created a mascot, the bear Chichi.

Staff take an interest in customers and get to know their names. A loyalty card is sold for 30p – the idea being that paying a nominal price makes the customer more engaged. Around 3,000 have been issued in 15 months.

Such promotions in the store are complemented by a focus on online promotion and social media, with a lot happening on Facebook. “It’s not just to be present on there. It’s about soliciting positive feedback from happy customers,” says Mei.

At the time of writing, Yobu is rated number one among 39 coffee and tea outlets in Bournemouth on Trip Advisor and number nine out of 606 places to eat.

“To start with, you need to make sure your customers are happy,” says Mei.

“Once they’re happy, you talk to them and say ‘Since you’re happy, give us a five-star review.’”

Mei avoided the small business owner’s trap of spending all her hours running the business. She spent the first couple of months in the shop and then handed over to her trusted manager, Lucy Ashburton-Dunning. Customer service standards are laid down for staff in key performance indicators.

“I come in one or two days a week maximum. I spend all my time in the back office. I manage the supplies, manage the finances, I do the strategic plan. If you think small, you’ll stay small forever.”

With that freedom to plan, she opened Yobu 2 in December in the Festival Place shopping mall in Basingstoke.

“I think I’ve been very lucky. I became financially independent from the age of 20,” she says.

“I support my parents financially. My parents gave me a lot. They taught me the value of education and being a good person. They gave me something very valuable.”