ENTREPRENEUR Akshay Ruparelia founded his online estate agent business at the age of 17 while studying for his A-levels – and it’s now worth £18million.
At the time Akshay, from Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, was a carer for his deaf parents and while helping them navigate moving home with high street estate agents he was shocked at the cost.
The “challenging but edifying” experience of having to run a household as a child also inspired him to set up his own business as an an online estate agent, he tells The Sun Online.
By taking on tasks “I was not sure on how to execute”, Akshay says he developed vital skills which have helped him with his business – and it seems to have worked.
Now, just two years after Doorsteps.co.uk first launched, the Harrow-based company is on track for a £1million turnover, up from £500,000 last year.
And if its business forecast is right, it could reach a turnover of £6million by the end of next year.
Learning from success
HERE are Akshay’s best tips for starting a business:
- Build a network: It is important to surround yourself with like-minded people and get to know other businesses and potential investors.
- Test your ideas cheaply: Even if you really believe in your idea or product, you need to test it cheaply before splashing out. Do your market research and understand your enemies and their feedback.
- Teach yourself: As a founder you are your company’s biggest asset, so make sure you also invest in yourself.
- Use your real life experiences: Take advantage of your background and what your experiences have taught you over the years.
- Understand the why to the business: What problems are you solving? If you always keep in mind what you set out to do in the first place when different ideas and distractions come up, you’ll still be able to stay focused with the brand.
Experts currently value the business as worth £18million – and this is before its current funding round which has seen it raise over £700,000 to date.
Despite his success, Akshay still lives at home with his parents in Harrow Weald in north west London.
But it hasn’t all been easy. Initially, after finishing his GCSEs, he developed an app called HouseSmart which connected property buyers and sellers – but he scrapped this before even launching it.
Then, while studying for his A-levels in economics, mathematics, financial studies, history and politics, he developed Doorsteps.co.uk and it was thanks to his uncle, who has started and sold two online businesses of his own, that his project got off the ground.
He contributed the majority of a £7,000 loan Akshay received from family members to get the business up and running, and remains one of Doorsteps.co.uk’s main investors today.
As a former politician and journalist, his uncle’s entrepreneurial spirit also inspired Akshay to set up his own business in the first place.
“There weren’t any entrepreneurs in my immediate family – my parents worked two jobs,” Akshay says.
With the loan from his uncle, Akshay set up a “very basic website”, got the business up and running and a few months later its first customer from East Sussex got in touch.
It was in the spring of 2016, and Akshay decided to go there himself to take pictures of the house.
A few weeks later, the house was sold and Doorsteps.co.uk received its first five-star review.
That’s the moment he realised that “this was the way to make a mark on an industry that needed some change,” he says.
“I started off knocking on people’s doors asking if they wanted to sell their house for a £99 fee, and I was getting the door slammed in my face time and time again.”
But he maintained his confidence about the idea, and in just a year since its last fundraising, the company has gone from four to 50 staff members – and they are all older than its founder.
Akshay still owns a majority of the business – after the latest funding round 92 per cent of the company will be his – which is what made him the youngest ever Brit to be included on the Sunday Times Rich List in May this year with an estimated net worth of £16million.
The fees Doorsteps.co.uk charges are cheap and include a floor plan, photos and property description (for customers who pay £199) but unlike a high street estate agent, you may have to pay more for extras such as a for sale sign board.
The concept has proved popular with homemovers who prefer to do viewings themselves, rather than pay an agent to do it.
In fact, in the past few years, online estate agents have boomed in popularity and now take 7.2 per cent of the property market, but some experts forecast that the industry will grow to take a whopping 25 per cent of the market in less than four years.
Since its launch in 2016, Doorsteps.co.uk has listed over £1billion worth of homes and says it has saved customers more than £4million in fees by selling around 2,000 properties.
“The goal is to become the number one estate agency in Britain,” Akshay says.
In fact, “in two-three years, this may become reality,” he adds – Doorsteps.co.uk is currently the 10th largest estate agent in Britain.
Interested in starting your own business? Akshay’s key words of advice are: “If you really care about something and you care about making a difference, you’ll make it work.”