Manveel and Ras
Ras Deol, co-founder of BuildMyGift.com, talks to BQ about her unique business idea and how to stay motivated during the early days of starting a business.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
BuildMyGift.com offers luxury, bespoke gift boxes. Working with a range of different suppliers from Ted Baker and Kate Spade to Hotel Chocolat and Cowshed, shoppers can make a gift box full of high-end products, that is completely unique to their friend, family member or loved one. We also offer specialist services for corporate gifting and a wedding gift concierge service, so no matter what the gifting need, BuildMyGift.com can help.
What did you do before you started this business?
I set up BuildMyGift.com with my husband, Manveel, and before that he was working for the family business and I was working in HR.
What inspired you to start up?
When a close family member fell ill and had to be admitted to hospital the usual flowers and gifts just didn’t seem appropriate – they were neither personal nor impactful. We were bored of cookie-cutter gifting and frustrated with the lack of choice on the market, it was then that we came up with the concept behind BuildMyGift.com.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
An online shop for all your luxury gifting needs, no matter who you’re buying for, we have something they’ll love, with the added convenience of it all been expertly wrapped, with a personalised message and sent directly to your friend or loved one.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
Our first port of call is always our family, we trust their opinion and they’re not afraid to be honest with us. We like to run ideas past them and often brainstorm together. They have been hugely supportive throughout the whole process, everything from helping us choose stock to staying up until 5am with us packing gift boxes. We have also been selective with the companies we work with, everyone from our PR and web development team to our courier company is able to support us on various business decisions. We’re never scared to ask questions and we’re always open to learning new things, so we often attend business workshops to acquire new skills.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
With the aim of becoming our own bosses we shunned external financial backing and decided to self-fund the launch of the business. Having to buy in stock, packaging, a new website and other external services, this required a lot of financial investment from us, but ultimately it was worth it. We were used to a life of socialising with friends, eating out, holidays and shopping, but this ultimately had to change.
We were no longer living for the moment financially, we were investing in our future and our own personal success. We had to start saying no, which at times was frustrating, especially in the early stages when we had little to show for our sacrifices.
Having to take money from our savings made us more focused on making the business a success than ever before. That money was our ‘nest egg’, it was therefore our future, so we had to make sure we were investing it wisely. Every business decision came back to ‘are we happy to spend our own money on this’, which in so many ways made us more effective with our spending habits.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
For the consumer side of our business it has to be appearing on This Morning, as part of a Mother’s Day gifting round-up. Hearing Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby talk positively about the brand we have worked so hard to create was incredible, and when Holly described it as ‘a Christmas stocking for Mums’ we knew she understood exactly what we are trying to offer our customers.
From a corporate point of view we have recently secured a contract with a large logistics firm as their gifting provider. This has the potential to get our brand out there to many more businesses and ultimately opens up a lot of opportunities for us.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
We offer a 360o service, which ranges from the online ecommerce platform for the consumer focused element of our business, as well as our bespoke offering through our corporate and wedding gift concierge service. We understand the various needs and desires of our different audiences, so we work hard to adapt our offering, while always providing the highest-level of customer service.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
Every sale we make feels like a personal success, but every mistake is a learning for us. Being so close to the business, without anyone else to justify our decisions to, we can adapt our offering instantly.
We only officially launched in November 2017, so we still have lots to do, but we both feel like we’re working for something we’re passionate about. It is this passion that keeps us going and keeps us striving to better our offering at every opportunity.
Where do you see your business in five years’ time?
Although we are currently an ecommerce offering we would like to start hosting regular pop-up stores around the country so people can experience the BuildMyGift.com service in real life, rather than from behind a computer. As our company grows and we become the first choice for gifting needs, we would like to employ a team of people who can support us expand and grow the business.
We would also like to see our corporate gifting business expand, from my time working in HR I know how important business recognition is and at BuildMyGift.com we can provide a stress-free, personalised service.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Be patient and never stop learning. No matter how hard you work and how passionate you are about your business, success won’t come overnight. To keep yourself motivated celebrate the small things, whether that’s hitting a target or a piece of positive customer feedback, it is all part of the bigger picture and means you’re a step closer to reaching an overall business objective.
As well as celebrating your own success, celebrate other entrepreneurs and the work that they’re doing. It is a really exciting time to be an entrepreneur, with so many innovative start-up businesses, we constantly look to others to be inspired and learn from their experience.
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