Have you ever received a gift that you didn’t really want? Have you spent hours agonising over getting the right gift?

Did you buy or receive gift cards for Woolworth, Austin Reed, Blockbuster, HMV, Comet etc. and then agonise whether or not they could be used when these businesses collapsed?
A personalised gift card (with an appropriate message, photograph and video) is safe, flexible, convenient and strikes happy memories.

We spoke to Thish De Zoysa, Director & Co-founder of Love from Me, Their Perfect Gift
about the card that can be used to buy whatever you want, wherever you want and whenever, in the World.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I’m a Chartered Accountant by training, and spent 13 years with BDO in Audit, Business Development and Corporate Recovery. The latter is where the majority of my time was spent.

I left there in 2010 to join the team at MCR, a boutique Business Restructuring and Insolvency practice as a Director. I was inspired to join because of their entrepreneuial nature. We sold the business to Duff & Phelps a year later and I was contracted to a 3year earn-out. D&P were at the time a a New York Stock Exchange listed Investment Bank.

D&P in turn was bought by a consortium on of private equity firms (Carlyle Group, Stone Point Capital, Edmund Edmond de Rothschild Group and Picket & Cie) and we were moved into The Shard, London as the anchor tenant.

I left D&P in early 2015 to work full time in our business.

Why did you start the business- what problems do you solve?

From my insolvency days The idea largely comes from my experience in restructuring, as it was apparent that retailer insolvency was a major issue for holders of retailer specific gift cards. Legally your gift card is null and void on the point of a retailer going bust.

Plus, a retailer specific gift card restricts your choice and forces you to spend money in that retailer (or a group of retailers) that you might have never shopped at.

The gift card market is growing not just in the UK but globally as it’s a very popular way to reward staff and customers. However, both these groups want freedom of choice and security. The employer wants to provide a non-cash item as money would simply just go through the payroll or is considered “non-personal”

I believe our product offers a win win for both parties.

We currently offer the purchaser the option to personalise their gift card via the greeting card, with their own choice of theme (happy birthday, Well done, congratulations, etc), or their own image like a company logo or brand colours and their own words. We will soon be moving to total personalisation to which will allow the purchaser to upload videos and picture onto the plastic gift card itself. include pictures and video.

We make it convenient for the purchaser as they can only buy the product via the internet, so no waste of time taking a trip to the retail stores. The card is posted out via Royal Mail.

We make it secure, as only the recipient can activate the card and the balance is held by a Mastercard licensed Issuer.

We provide the recipient choice, as they can use the gift card in over 30million places around the world.

The purchaser has the knowledge and piece of mind that the card holder cannot withdraw cash from an ATM the card but can use it online or in store to purchase “Their Perfect Gift”.

Why are you crowd funding – what are the benefits?

We are crowd funding because we see it as an ideal way to get popular engagement. We can raise the money that we need to market and scale our business and also have the right kind of investors join the adventure as they are likely to be ambassadors for our product. They will intrinsically get it.

We are not Private Equity or Venture Capitalist backed, but we have a number of senior people from that industry as private shareholders. We want to create a popular movement in the ownership structure of our business.

The UK Gift card market is valued well in excess of £5bn and we think we are ideally placed to offer an alternative to a traditional market place.

We are bringing personalisation, convenience, security and choice.

How quickly did the company move from idea to your £1mil sales in 2015?

I actually had the idea over 10years ago. In truth It took me a long time to build up the courage. But the experience, the contacts and the training I have gained in the corporate world stood me in very good stead to get this off the ground and to grow it.

We started the company with seed capital injected from the founders to prove concept. A few months later and to further develop the product offering, we raised £150k (under SEIS) on a £2.3m valuation from 25 highly respected and successful city professionals who believe in the concept and the gap in the market.

The development of the product has taken 18months but continues to evolve. Because we haven’t thrown £m into the development, we were very careful with where and how we sent spent our funds. We partnered with those parties that we believe brought the best attributes to the table. We have had to switch some partners along the way to ensure that we have the best supply chain.

In a business that is low margin but potentially high volume, it’s hugely important that the business maintains strict cost controls both in the variable and fixed sides (sorry my accountancy side coming out)

What have been the standout achievements for you?

We achieved in excess of £1 million sales in 2016, finishing that year also as nominated Best Gift Card Product / Programme by the Emerging Payments Association. Our “Picture/Video” gift cards are at testing/compliance phase.

But also, we have got this far with very limited resources. We count as some of our regular clients, giants in the world of Travel, Clothing, Drinks, Hospitality, Banking, Private Equity and many other industries.

What did you learn that you would do differently next time?

Just accept that the landscape is going to change. What seems like a disaster may actually turn out to be a positive, and vice versa.

It’s best not to believe things at face value. Just accept that even after all the due diligence, left field actions of others are sometimes unforeseeable.

In a start-up company, you are tested to your limits. So it’s best to know how to develop new skills really quickly. Adapt or expect not to exist.

With technology improvements and because of lack of restrictive culture, small businesses like ours can move more nimbly and be more accommodating towards our clients and customers.

If I were to do this again, I would probably have more funding in place at the outset and have back-ups to our back-ups. This is not an easy product to bring to market.

But essentially I don’t regret anything. You only know what you know, you don’t know what you don’t know.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

No two days will be the same.
I have twin 5yr olds, so they need quite bit of attention. I try to drop them and pick them up from school a few days a week.

The team that carry out the customer operations we have are young, hard working and intelligent. Whilst our board advisors are very experienced people with other commitments, so there’s a really good mix. The value chain involves operations in 3 continents, so time differences and managing people is the vast majority of my time.

Now that we are fund raising, there’s a lot of meetings with potential investors and PR.

Then it’s the overseeing of our marketing and product improvement.

I try and also get involved in all new corporate engagement and sales.