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Sonal Lalji: The Mumpreneur going from city flying to twins and luxury gifting

Entrepreneurs 03-09-2019

Luxury gifting concierge company Khyva established by mumpreneur Sonal Lalji speaks to Nima Suchak on how she turned her passion for gifting into a successful business.

Buying the right gift can be a stressful situation…finding the perfect gift for a special event or special person can be time consuming and confusing. After giving birth to twins, former accountant Sonal Lalji decided to connect her love of gifting with her need for a flexible working life. She established Khyva in 2017.

Khyva offers a range of carefully sourced, luxury products in a beautiful unwrapping experience,” says Sonal. The business works with high-end brands such as Cath Kidston, Ted Baker, and Cowshed, along with smaller, independent boutiques, in particular brands that have an ethical and sustainable philosophy. “We give our customers a choice of giving a brand they know, while introducing them to something new,” she says.

From ready-made gifts-to-go, or indeed, customised ‘design your own’, the gifts are presented in a keepsake box, wrapped with luxury tissue paper and tied with grosgrain ribbon, arriving at the doorstep for a full luxury experience.

 

A mother’s drive

Sonal worked in corporate banking and decided on a change of career while on maternity leave. She set up Khyva in 2017 when her children, Khyal and Eva were just six months old.

“I’m very career minded and my whole intention was to return to work,” she says. “I was at director level and had worked really hard to get to where I was, but when the twins were six months old, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving them.”

She eventually decided to capitalise on what she loved most—gifting. “I knew that this was the perfect time to make the leap and do something I genuinely have a passion for. That’s when I decided to become a home-based entrepreneur.”

From fear to fulfilment

It was a brave decision for Sonal to become her own boss. But she tells me her role as a mother helped her gain the confidence she needed. “When I found out I was having twins, I initially thought I wouldn’t be able to do it…but of course, I did. So I told myself that if I can carry two children, I can do anything. I was juggling how to be a mum while learning how to set up my own business. It was scary, but I had that fire in my belly. I can definitely say my children, Khyal and Eva helped me set up Khyva.”

Sonal’s banking background was a bonus in the finance side of things, but pitching to and getting the right suppliers and big brands on board was a bigger hurdle and took much more work.

“You make mistakes but you learn each time,” she says. “My biggest fear was the idea of not working if everything fails and wasting so much time and money. But I’m quite a determined person and once I set a goal for myself, I will do it. I never wanted to compromise on being a mum and there were plenty of times that I had to park what I had planned because the children needed me more.

“I was quite naïve as to how much it takes to start your own business. I’m the marketing, advertising, finance, and sales manager…basically everything depends on me—from stock taking to packing the hampers.”

Sonal started the business by initially reaching out to friends and family. Eventually her reputation spread through word-of-mouth. She gained a loyal following through social media which led to more sales. As well as customised orders, Sonal made connections in various companies, creating in-roads for her business. This led to a number of orders for corporates, including British-themed hampers for Marriot, Canary Wharf, and internal gifting for American Express, RBS and Schroder’s.

“There is still a stigma about being a mum and running your own business,” she says. “People think something’s got to give, but the hardest thing is starting. I get messages all the time from people trying to set up their businesses, and I’m always happy to help because when I was doing it, I didn’t have a clue where to begin. I believe it’s really important, especially for women to help each other to establish themselves. I want to be a role model to my kids and especially show my daughter that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to.”

A luxury unboxing experience

Sonal takes the time to carefully select each product for her pre-curated hampers. They not only have to visually look stunning when placed together, but also keep the recipient in mind.

When it comes to ideas, Sonal is thrilled with the brand new offering at Khyva. Working in collaboration with celebrity florist Sarah of Sarah Diamant Florist, Khyva is on the cusp of launching fresh flower hampers—gorgeously packaged floral arrangements. “I was inspired by the floral craze and wanted a truly unique offering capturing the beauty of a garden in a box with carefully selected products,” says Sonal.

Sarah Diamant trained for four years at two of the most prestigious floral art schools in France and arranged flowers for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding and Wimbledon.

She is also known to have worked at Selfridges, Harrods and Jo Malone to name but a few. “We are really excited to work together,” says Sonal. “I told her my idea and she loved it. Sarah designed the first hamper, and it was a match made in heaven.”  The truly Instagram-worthy gifts encompass fresh foliage and flowers with equally beautiful gifts, and come with the detailed inspiration behind the arrangement from Sarah herself.

Making gifting fun

Perhaps the reason why Khyva is celebrating success is the ease of selecting a unique and fun gift, that is seamlessly delivered and received. The opportunities are endless—whether you want a pre-curated hamper, or go custom made, selecting the items you want wrapped beautifully and delivered in a click. These can be a congratulatory ‘You’re the Best’ box for a new job, or a customised proposal box, with champagne, a ‘happy ever after’ candle, and a ‘Mrs’ clutch bag.  In the run up to the festive season, Sonal is preparing to launch new Diwali hampers in collaboration with artisan sweet makers, Blisss Barfi. She is currently immersed in the excitement around putting together Christmas hampers and corporate proposals – understanding client profiles and picking out all of the items to create the perfect, individualised offering.

Prices start from £35 to £500.

Photographs by Raman Tumber

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