Overcoming family food intolerances with his passion for baking, Ryan Panchoo, the Founder and CEO of Borough 22 shares how he went from being made redundant, to turning his home kitchen into a commercial powerhouse and how he leaned on tech to turn his dream into a reality.
Many of us dream of becoming the owner of our own business but find it difficult to move from the dream to reality. However, for someone like Ryan Panchoo, the Founder and CEO of Borough 22 – an independent business that produces a range of vegan and gluten-free doughnuts – that’s exactly what happened. After a successful project management career, Panchoo started to hone his baking skills to fill a gap in the market and a need within his family for gluten and dairy-free treats. After catering to their needs, he gave spares away within his community. After a time, he realised he could make money from this and built up a business and a brand that is now popular with all lovers of freshly made doughnuts, not just those with food intolerances.
Panchoo leveraged his personal and professional networks, social media and a variety of methods to market and grow Borough 22. He also adopted the latest apps and technology platform solutions to support operations and provide the infrastructure needed to properly manage the business. This included selecting digital tools provided by Sage, an accounting, HR and payroll specialist, which provides much of the operational backbone that supports Borough 22. Panchoo has a strong online presence rooted in e-commerce and customers can also find his signature doughnuts in Selfridges, as well as other outlets, where he enjoys strong commercial and collaborative relationships.
How it all began
After discovering his son had dairy intolerances, Panchoo’s wife started an online magazine called TheLondonMother.net, about all things parenting. It was here that Panchoo found there was very little catering for gluten and dairy intolerant individuals at events they were subsequently invited to, and so he quickly began to explore baking treats for his family. Through hard work, social media networking and being able to rely on business tech, Panchoo built Borough 22 into an entrepreneurial e-commerce venture.
Borough 22 began with an order of 1,000 business cards, lots of photos and a whole day on an iPad designing a logo. Panchoo understood that he couldn’t just expect the phone to start ringing or for emails to start flying in. He had to build his brand from scratch to make people aware of what Borough 22 had to offer. He soon realised the best place to start building his new empire was with the very customers he intended to target in the first place, people with food intolerances. This led him to search social media for groups representing his new audience. He quickly identified and contacted coeliac groups to gauge their interest and everything spiralled from there.
The key to Panchoo’s success with Borough 22 has always been the personal touch and there was no difference when it came to selling. He began by reaching out to individuals on social media, asking questions, having conversations and just dropping in the fact he had made gluten-free products.
“I was very open and honest to people, and I said: ‘I am not a trained baker. I have made this for my family, they enjoyed it and I think you will too. I think it’s something that’s missing in the marketplace. I have not seen anything like it and here is when I can deliver it to you’,” said Panchoo.
Things began to accelerate after Panchoo was made redundant. This served to be the trigger for Borough 22. The very next day, he posted a picture of his gluten-free doughnuts on social media and Borough 22 went from being a passionate side-line to a full-blown commercial enterprise.
When Panchoo got the opportunity to pitch Borough 22 to a buyer at Selfridges, he knew he had to get organised and structured to make it work. This was not an easy transition at all and there was a very steep learning curve. He had to use his project management skills from his previous job and apply them to the Borough 22 business. This adaptation was the first in his journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Imposter syndrome is just one of the challenges faced by new business owners. Panchoo likens the feeling to being like a hamster on a wheel.
“Once you get on that wheel, you are just going to have to keep going. There’s not going to be a chance to stop. That’s how it feels. But to have those people around you, pushing you, believing in your products, believing in you and saying you are the right person to do this. That’s what makes it work,” he said.
Tenacity and adaptability are no doubt vital to any kind of business success. However, there’s only so much you can achieve on your own. Learning how to develop a business from a personal need and turning it into a successful revenue-generating company is a critical part of being a successful entrepreneur. Running a business is like spinning lots of plates all at the same time. Fulfilling the various roles, a business owner must play can seem overwhelming. So, it is critical for entrepreneurs to utilise the tools available to overcome such challenges.
Leaning on tech
To counter these difficulties, it is essential to have not only a great social support network but also the right tech to bolster your efforts. Panchoo places huge importance on the technology that facilitates quality time management. This is embodied by Sage’s Accounting Plus software. This technology supported Panchoo’s entrepreneurial journey by allowing him to spend less time on aspects of the business that are essential, but not his area of expertise.
“I am slowly readjusting to having more time, trying to fit activities in a structured way, striving towards specific goals and focusing on getting certain things done to grow the business,” he added.
Accounting technology acted as an enabler for Panchoo to pivot and adopt new ways of working amidst the backdrop of the pandemic. He also learnt the necessity of communicating his brand to B2C and B2B consumers in the most efficient and user-friendly way through such technology. The amount of time tech gives back to Panchoo as a business owner, with so many ‘hats’ to wear in his day-to-day activities is unparalleled. It is also important to note that the initial investment is always repaid at speed, and in full, by revenue through time saved and secondly, but no less significantly, increased wellbeing.
A final word
After almost two years of upheaval for businesses, many are starting to flourish once again. As such, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the more a business focuses on its human element, the more success it enjoys. Being able to focus on the things you do best, whether that be baking or social media advertising, both in Panchoo’s case, technology is highlighted as an enabler. Although it is not a simple journey to starting your own business, if you use the right technology with the right attitude, it can act as a fundamental pillar in both facilitating and supporting entrepreneurial aspirations.Click below to share this article