We had the pleasure of speaking to Ryan Panchoo – the business owner and mastermind behind the successful gluten-free vegan doughnut sensation, Borough 22. Be right back – we’re off to get our doughnut fix!
Tell us a little bit about Borough 22…
My business is the UK’s only, dedicated gluten-free vegan doughnut bakery. The aim was to provide a familiar indulgent treat that was accessible for everybody. I wanted my kids and their friends to get as excited about eating my doughnuts as they would about a box of Krispy Kreme.
Was there a ‘lightbulb moment’?
It was more out of frustration than a particular lightbulb moment. I never planned to start the business. I was just fed up with the lack of allergen-free options/treats available whenever we would venture out and about across town. My wife, @thelondonmother, would often be invited to review films, attend events and so on. Whilst these were mainly kid orientated there was an astounding lack of free from options for them to eat there. I thought “how hard can it be?” Famous last words, haha!
Describe a day-in-the-life running your business…
On my long day (Thursdays) I’ll wake up at 4:30 am and start baking. Everything is prepped the night before so all I have to do is mix the batter and turn on the oven. If I didn’t prep then things would be a lot slower! I drop off doughnuts to a couple of local independent traders and grab a coffee to help fuel me.
Back home it’s school run time before coming home to crack out the mail orders, boxed and sealed ready for the courier to collect.
I’ll order any ingredients that I am running low of and file my expenses then spend an hour or so answering emails.
School run again then prepping for the following morning…
Were there any big ‘pain points’ when you were starting up the business?
So many. Probably the biggest was how to transport them across the UK and also how to deliver into retail. I had no clue whatsoever so it was a very steep learning curve. Thankfully the buyers, loading bay and counter staff at Selfridges helped me at every stage, and continue to do so
And the highest point so far?
Having a presence in all 3 Selfridges. Such an amazing sense of achievement. Also, joint first, is featuring in the Hoxton Mini Press publication Startup London. I was absolutely beaming when I saw the final edit. And in such good company too, not only that, it was a real boost in confidence to know that despite over 200,000 startups per year Borough 22 is still going.
Any low points?
Being made redundant from my 9-to-5 job. It affected me more than I care to admit but at the same time, it unleashed me to really make a go of the business. I didn’t actually realise how much I was holding back!
It is incredible, but understandable, how institutionalised you become working for someone. I had to re-learn how to work in a way that suited me, my family and then the business. It took about 10 months but I finally cracked it and haven’t looked back since.
Did you get any support along the way – or was there anything that you found useful when you needed help?
Tremendous support from The London Mother. She has truly been a rock. She is the entrepreneur of the family and has the tremendous drive needed to get things done. She has been the boot to my backside to put in bluntly.
Selfridges have been fantastic too. The PR side has really supported me which is amazing considering I am a one-man operation. They have driven sales and got me featured in several print publications which have helped raise brand awareness.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
The flexibility. Being able to be around for the kids in particular is amazing, also the fact that everything I do has an impact for my family so I can work as hard as I want and reap 100% of the effort as opposed to killing myself for a corporate company on the promise of an end-of-year bonus. Another aspect I really love is gifting. Randomly I will zero cost an order or give a box away for free. No competition, no expectations, just because I want to.
Has your life changed since starting your own business?
Absolutely. I’m more present for my family, more involved. Less stressed. I received excellent training from some brilliant mentors throughout my working life. Now I have the flexibility to apply the skills developed under them and fully reap the rewards.
What did you do before starting up Borough 22?
I was a project manager for a property investment company. It was a UK wide role which meant a fair amount of travel and working on diverse projects such as office refurbishments, asbestos management and submetering.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking of starting their own business?
Have a clear goal as to what you want to achieve and why. This is what will drive you forward day-after-day and night-after-night.
What are your hopes for the future?
To take on staff and open my own production kitchen. I want to be more hands off.
We love the photos featured on your social media and the funny captions! How important do you think social media is for businesses nowadays? (And do you take most of the photos of yummy doughnuts yourself?)
Haha, thanks! I take 99% of all the photos and I am still a big kid at heart plus, working alone in the early hours of the morning does mean you come up with some crazy concepts and ideas, fuelled by the fact that you really should be asleep at that time.
I think social media has its place. It’s a way to connect with your customers and friends and it can definitely drive sales but I think a lot of people focus on the superficial figures, the followers, the likes. It’s a marketing tool at the end of the day if you are using it for business.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew in the beginning?
That working for yourself was a totally viable life choice. I would have done it much sooner.
Would you say there are any particular qualities needed to run your own business, and what are they?
You need drive, you need to be organised and you need discipline. The rewards and benefits will come but, as with everything, you need to ‘pay your dues’.
We know you often get very large orders, so what do you normally do to wind down?
Sleep. And Fifa. If I can get a game of Fifa in then I am happy. I also try to work out for at least 20-30 minutes every morning. It’s difficult but programmes such as Fit in 5 make it possible to do so. I also have regular sessions with an Osteopath. We put our bodies under so much strain on a daily basis it is so important to have this corrected regularly.
A big thank you to Ryan for taking part in our #StartUpStory feature! We loved looking behind the Instagram of the beautiful (and very delicious-looking doughnuts), to hear about the sheer hard work and determination that goes into making a brand a success. We hope Borough 22 continues to flourish – and if you would like to sample the goodies for yourself, see below:
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