How we started up successfully without external finance

A stack of brightly coloured wrapped gifts

When husband and wife team Manveel and Ras Deol spotted a gap in the market for bespoke, luxury gift boxes, they knew they had a business idea they were passionate about. However, they also knew passion alone wasn't enough - they would need to invest for success

Determined to be their own bosses, they didn't want to involve external investors, so focused on launching their business - Build My Gift - completely independently. Ras explains how.

Finding the perfect business idea

"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. Bored of cookie-cutter gifting and frustrated with the lack of choice on the market, we came up with the concept behind Build My Gift.

"We offer a fully personalised service, where customers can choose from more than 200 luxury products to build a bespoke gift box for any occasion. We thought it was more appealing than ready-made hampers, which often contain unwanted items, or making a hamper at home, which can be seriously time-consuming.

"After researching the market, we knew that we could make the idea a success. More than ever people are interested in personalisation, but as they become increasingly time-poor they still want a one-stop shop. Our business idea was the answer to this."

Making sacrifices

"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 required a lot of 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 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', our future; so we had to make sure we were investing it wisely.

"Every business decision came down to 'Are we happy to spend our own money on this?' - which in so many ways made us more effective with our spending habits."

Reaping the rewards

"After less than 12 months, I was able to give up my job to concentrate on the business full time, meaning we were one step closer to becoming our own bosses.

"Every sale we make feels like a personal success, but every mistake is a lesson for us both. For example, we missed out on a huge opportunity to pre-promote the brand on social media to ensure immediate impact, as we were so focused on getting the website launched.

"Being so close to the business, without anyone questioning our decisions, we can adapt our offering really quickly in response to feedback. If we find out that customers want more choice, or a particular product, we can make it happen - this is freedom we may not have had with financial investment.

"It's definitely been a slow but steady process. We have short term goals, as well as long term ones, so we can celebrate the small things and stay positive and focused for the future.

"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 - which is far more powerful than financial reward."

Ras's three key lessons

  • Be patient - we wanted to see results instantly, but that wasn't realistic. Without financial backing there isn't the budget for a 'big bang' launch, so results may be more of a drip feed.
  • Be prepared - even before your product or service is ready to launch, look at ways to get your name out there. That way you're not constantly chasing the sale, as some will be there waiting for you.
  • Be persistent - there will be setbacks, but you just have to remember why you started the journey. Putting your own money into the business means you're even hungrier for success, as you know how much is riding on it.

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