Meet Britain’s youngest self-made millionaire

Building: Ruparelia turned down a place at Oxford University to build his estate agency business.

What does it take to be an entrepreneur? Akshay Ruparelia was just 17 when he set up his online estate agency — it is now worth millions. He talks The Day through his extraordinary journey.

“What’s that famous phrase: ‘keep it simple, stupid’ — that’s probably one of my favourite pieces of advice,” Akshay Ruparelia says. No wonder, it’s a principle that has brought him stunning success.

Set up when he was just 17, Ruparelia’s online estate agency Doorsteps.co.uk was built on a simple vision: sell houses while charging the lowest commission possible. He sold his first home while completing his A-levels. Now his estate agency empire is valued at £12 million.

“You need to have broader motives then just money,” Ruparelia insists. “Once you motivate yourself with a passion that comes from pleasing staff, pleasing a customer, and having a team spirit… that’s the exciting stuff.” Nonetheless, Ruparelia’s approach still made him the youngest person on this year’s Rich List.

Not that he feels particularly young anymore: “Business ages you very quickly. Sometimes I feel like an old man really — sometimes my parents have more energy than I do.”

When Ruparelia first started out, he was reluctant to reveal his age to staff and clients. “It was all about presenting myself confidently,” he says. “I had members of staff and people who didn’t know my age that assumed I was 24 or 25. When it came out people were like: ‘oh, you’re young’.”

But when it comes to the hard work required, age makes no difference: “It’s pretty constant. It’s a 100 hour week and I don’t think it will change any time soon, but I kind of like it that way.” His ultimate goal is to turn Doorsteps.co.uk into the number one estate agency in Britain.

In getting to where he is now, Ruparelia took a different path to many of his peers. “Not going to university wasn’t a big deal. I had the option, and I worked hard to make sure I had the option,” he reflects. “I think it’s just about having the opportunity to explore, rather than keeping yourself on a certain path because you are conforming to convention.”

What does it take to be an entrepreneur?

On the market

“Test your idea cheaply, that was a big one for me,” Ruparelia says. “Don’t go out and spend lots of money or raise lots of money if you’re not sure that it’s going to work. For me customer feedback was my paramount thing on which the business depended.”

“Never stop learning too. People learn about different areas within the sector, so learn from other business people — that’s really important, never stop learning. On that same point, you need to educate yourself too. Start by taking control. The biggest money saver you will have is the ability to do all the different tasks yourself. Until you have to hire someone to do a job, do it yourself.”

You Decide

  1. Is money a good guide to success?
  2. Do you want to go to university?

Activities

  1. Ruparelia’s business takes a traditional industry and provides customers a cheap alternative which is run entirely online. Can you think of any other industries that you could change by using the internet? Discuss your thoughts with your classmates.
  2. Watch the second video link in Become An Expert — it explores the stories of several young entrepreneurs. Take notes on the following questions: How are their stories similar? How are they different? Would you say there is one secret to business success?

Some People Say...

“You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over.”

Richard Branson

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Traditional high street estate agents are still a bigger player in the market than online estate agencies. For example, in the third quarter of 2018, high street agencies completed almost 270,000 transactions, compared to just over 20,000 completed online.
What do we not know?
How quickly online estate agencies will grow in the future. In the first quarter of this year there were just under 15,000 online sales, growing to 20,000 by the third quarter. The promise of lower commissions could continue to drive more customers online.

Word Watch

Commission
Money earned which is a set percentage of the sale of an item.
Rich List
Published each year by the Sunday Times, it ranks the wealthiest individuals in the UK. It also runs a separate list detailing the richest under 30s in the country. See the Business Insider link for more.
Came out
Ruparelia’s story has been the subject of much media attention, including interviews on morning TV and in national newspapers. See Become An Expert for more.
Conforming
Making decisions and behaving according to socially acceptable conventions or standards.
Paramount
More important than anything else.
Tasks
Ruparelia says he taught himself photography so he could take pictures of houses himself, rather than employing somebody to do it. Although, for his first house sale, he did have to ask for a lift to the house viewing, as he had not yet learnt to drive.