Mum who started company with just £40 while going through IVF now makes millions
"No one in life is owed anything."
That's the motto Layla Chapman now lives by after almost a decade of endless rounds of IVF, moving back in with her mum, and watching her business crumble to the point of bankruptcy.
But together with her partner, Daniel, she never gave up hope – and now they're on track to make £10million from their furniture empire, founded with just £40 from a rented house, after having to give up everything, including their car during a nightmare ordeal.
"Dan and I met in 2009 and got married in 2014. We had the wedding and honeymoon of our dreams in the Bahamas, life was amazing and we were on a high," Layla, from Berkshire, told Mirror Money.
"However, on returning home, things started to spiral for us and we went from and all time high to hitting rock bottom, losing everything and having to move in with our parents again.
"We had both been working in the events industry, running events for brands and celebrities across the South East. My husband also founded an electronic cigarette business that had started to gain traction in Australia, but due to a shift in market conditions and a few steep learning curves, both hit financial difficulties around the same time and we found ourselves having to start again having lost our home and car," she explained.
"I felt completely useless and embarrassed with having to start all over again," she said, recalling the morning they sold their car.
In 2015, Layla said she made the difficult decision to move back home with her mum where her and Daniel were forced to "hit the reset button" on their careers.
But they quickly had their dreams dashed again after being told that the only way they'd ever be able to conceive would be through IVF.
"It was heartbreaking, we were both devastated. I had always wanted a big family and it’s something that Dan and I had spoken about a lot," Layla said.
"Coming from a big Persian family, where family is literally everything, it’s something I had always dreamt of. You grow up thinking that having children is just part of life and a god given right. But it isn't. It’s a blessing, and the reality hit that this might not happen hit us hard. I remember waking up in the mornings feeling like I had a black cloud over me."
In December 2015, the couple moved into rented accommodation to get some space and focus on their next steps.
They had a new business idea – and were prepared to start it alongside their IVF journey.
"We'd never had mentors in business but we knew it was about learning from your mistakes. We had to be positive, so we put what we'd learnt to experience," Layla said.
"Dan was my rock. I changed my mindset and just got my head down and worked harder than anyone else I knew."
"I could see a definite gap in the market"
That's when the couple launched House of Sparkles (HoS) from their rented home – a design company that would specialise in luxury furniture.
"We registered the company in January 2016 and launched the website and business live on 6 February 2016. That same year we started our journey of IVF."
Layla said her passion for design came from her Persian heritage which ignited a spark within her from a young age.
"My interest was fuelled by my mum, who studied it in Iran. It was very much a passion and interest we shared together.
"My mum’s parents lived in a beautiful Persian home in Iran. Unfortunately I only ever got to see photos of it, but I was completely taken in by its interiors, with the exquisite and extravagant décor.
"I think that's where my eye for glam and beautiful things developed as I've always loved over-the-top sparkly furniture. I could see a definite gap in the market for it in the UK."
Layla said through HoS she channelled this love into a reality – creating bespoke one-of-a-kind designs. She said it also worked as a distraction, while going through several rounds of treatment.
But, with every penny invested in IVF, the couple had just £40 to get it off the ground.
"People often chuckle, as if to say ‘yeh right’ of course you started a business with £40, but that’s the truth.
"It wasn't easy, but e-commerce and social media have made the barrier to entry much smaller, as long as you are willing to "out work" everyone around you and make smart decisions.
"We were working 16-hour days and battling the treatment in between."
But she admits that while the business kept her mind occupied, she still had her down days.
"Some days were incredibly hard, particularly on our third failed IVF attempt. Dan picked up the slack on the days I struggled most, and I picked up the slack on the days he struggled most.
"The business was so new and Dan and I were doing everything. Sales, customer service, warehousing, marketing, product picking, website development – the works.
"We were so busy that at times it was a welcome distraction. In some ways being at work helped me get through the hard times as it was a distraction from what was going on in our personal lives."
"And then we sold our first item"
Layla and Daniel's first sale was a Black Hollywood Mirror, with a £244 price tag.
"We couldn't believe it! We looked at each other, high-fived, and then got to work. It gave us the confidence we needed that this could work in the way we believed.
"Once we sold one or two items, we started to re-invest the money into paid adverts.
"We convinced a few of our preferred suppliers and made a £27 drag and drop website using Shopify and Youtube tutorials. It was basic, but we were proud of it.
"It just snowballed from there really and I think what helped was my absolute love for the job.
"We were marketing the the business on social media. Namely Facebook and Instagram . We started by posting furniture on our Instagram account and following fans of celebrities that we thought might like our designs.
"People loved it and were soon buying from us. We then reinvested what we made into very detailed and targeted social media adverts.
"Influencer marketing is very powerful but in the early days we weren't sending furniture to celebrities in exchange for posts. We simply didn't have the budget to do so.
"We do of course now work and collaborate with many great personalities and celebrities, but in the early days what got us traction was hard work, hard work, hard work. There is no secret."
"Our aim is for our furniture to be affordable whilst ensuring the quality remains strong. Our prices our based on affordable luxury.
"This comes from an innate desire from when we started to create beautiful spaces and designs for people that wouldn’t break the bank.
"I used to baulk at how much some of the beautiful pieces of furniture were. We wanted people to be able to recreate these luxury celebrity homes on their own budget. Our prices are competitive but reasonable and match the quality and delivery of the service.
“Our first celebrity client was Denise Van Outen. She purchased a Hollywood mirror and we upholstered a bespoke footstool for her. We've also supplied furniture for Amanda Holden and many of the TOWIE stars.
"We formed a relationship with Bugzy Malone, the rapper, and he entrusted us with designing his home for him and his partner. We felt blessed and honoured and his house looks amazing. It was a lot of work but we love seeing the final ideas come together.
"Today, we manufacture 95% of our items with no middle man and that has allowed us to create lower prices and take control of supply chain.
"We manufacture in batches and sell our furniture from the very start of our manufacturing process which removes traditionally large warehousing costs, which we pass onto the customer.
"We also now have a separate bespoke beds business called A. by Andre with Peter Andre which is doing amazing, having built up a relationship with Peter from styling his home."
"I'm glad we lost it all"
Above everything, Layla says the secret to their success has been perseverance.
"No one in life is owed anything. If you want the nice cars and houses you have to work for them. I didn't come from money and my parents worked so hard to give us the best in life. Money doesn't grow on trees and I value and appreciate every penny I earn.
"Everything I have purchased has been through hard work, blood, sweat and tears and I strongly believe if you want it, you have to go out there and get it.
"I’m glad we lost it all as it’s made me the woman I am today. I’m so grateful for the blessings in my life and the material things are all a bonus.
"Our core value is loyalty and we enjoy and nurture the relationships we build, we don’t just want it to be a one off and then they move on we want people to be a part of the HoS Home family and come on a journey with us.
"My advice for anyone else starting out is to have faith and keep pushing on.
"Even if you feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, there will be."
From their first sale of £244, HoS went on to turn over £1.13million in its first year.
Last year Layla fell pregnant after spending a total of £55,000 on IVF, which included four unsuccessful attempts and two miscarriages.
"We welcomed our beautiful little girl, Yasmin, into the world in Jnauary."
Their business has now taken off and the couple are expanding into new premises in the next two months.
"We are setting new records every month and we're on track to hit £10million by December," Layla said, still stunned.
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