It was an unfortunate present purchase that sparked Casey Gregory’s idea of setting up a luxury online gift store.
Casey, 43, had struggled to find the right gift for a close friend’s 40th.
She ended up panic buying a rather expensive pair of earrings at the last minute.
But when the friend opened the box, her muted response told Casey that the earrings weren’t quite right.
She said: “What should have been a joyful experience turned out to be a little awkward for us both.”
It did, however, spark a gem of a business idea.
And that idea was to lead to Foke – an online business offering curated gifts, sourced from unusual, design-led independent brands.
Then either prepared in gift boxes in advance and sold online, or sourced bespoke based on budget and the tastes and interests of the recipient.
For Casey it was a dream business.
She had always enjoyed giving gifts as much as receiving them.
And she always felt the gift giving experience should be as rewarding for both the giver and the recipient.
This fuels Foke’s mission and led to its tagline – “They’re happy. You’re happy. We’re happy.”
Foke is run from Casey’s home in Hilton, about eight miles from Blandford.
The business is as much about the service as it is the products.
Each Foke gift is thoughtfully curated from a selection of handpicked brands, packaged in a luxury gift box and sent directly to the recipient.
Casey writes a gift message by hand on a notecard enclosed within every gift box.
The gift wrapping is done for free and so the customer pays the same as if they had bought each product separately.
“I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with how presents are wrapped and presented, I think half the joy of receiving a gift is the experience of opening it,” she said.
Casey previously owned a women’s clothing and lifestyle store in Blandford.
She said the key to the shop’s success was the personal experience offered to customers.
This not only included a personal shopping service, but every item purchased was wrapped before being given to the customer.
All of Foke’s packaging is 100 per cent sustainable.
“Unfortunately, not as easy to achieve as you’d think,” said Casey.
Also, for each box sold, Foke clean a square metre of Dorset coastline “throughout the autumn and winter when all the tourists go home and the beach cleaning services stop,” she said.
Casey runs Foke with her husband Dan, a graphic designer, illustrator and animator, pictured left.
They have worked together for many years, as they also own a small boutique design agency called Caravan.
It means Dan has been able to design all of the branding and packaging for Foke and build the online store himself, saving the couple a huge amount of money during the start-up phase of the business.
His design background, which includes designing games and interactive comics for Lego as well as branding for a number of museums and attractions including Dorset County Museum, Paulton’s Park and Royal Museums Greenwich, also allows Foke to offer in-house branding services for any of their corporate clients wishing to have bespoke branded gift boxes for their corporate gifts.
Casey and Dan Gregory launched Foke in August 2019, initially to corporate clients.
The business then expanded during the autumn and winter of 2019 to friends and family.
The couple spent months researching their business plan and independent suppliers and wanted to start with a “soft launch” to see how the idea of Foke was received and allow it to grow slowly and organically.
However, with the onset of Covid lockdown this spring, they saw sales soar as the appetite for personal, curated gifts rocketed.
Casey said: “People wanted that personal, helpful shopping assistant experience from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
“They couldn’t go out to the shops but wanted to reach out to make loved ones and colleagues smile.”
Dan added: “It’s been a bit of a logistical nightmare as initially we weren’t expecting to sell the kind of volume that we have been.
“Fortunately because most of our suppliers are small and we manage all areas of the business in-house, we have been able to adjust to the demand with no problems and have been steadily growing over the last six months.”
Lockdown resulted in a boom in sales of ‘Stay at Home’ gifts – a new section of gift edits curated by Casey specifically for the needs of lockdown.
These included packets of seeds, gourmet popcorn and embroidery kits.
Casey has already started curating a selection of luxury autumn/winter gift edits ready for Christmas this year ranging from £23 to £84.
She is now running the business full-time while Dan is currently juggling both businesses.
For a bespoke experience, people often call up with a budget, explaining a little about who they are buying for and then Casey collates four different “gift edits” that the buyer can choose from.
Something tells us that Casey is in for a busy few months…!
By: Andrew Diprose Dorset Biz News