At first glance, Akshay Ruparelia from Harrow, North East London is your regular, ambitious 21-year-old.
But take a look at his CV, and the young entrepreneur, who is now worth an estimated £18million, is on a mission to transform the property market.
Ruparelia, who was the youngest person on the Sunday Times Rich List last year, is the founder of Doorsteps.co.uk, the “Uber” of the property world, which he started from his bedroom at just 17.
The managing director, who completed college in 2016 with a string of A*s, now says it’s high time Britain changed its archaic grading system to make way for the next generation of “young, bright, well-rounded” business leaders.
He says the world needs to learn to welcome talent – beyond the traditional pen to paper method.
Ruparelia’s own company, Doorsteps wants to become Britain’s biggest estate agent, offering homeowners fixed, fair and affordable pricing.
It was set up at just 17 after Ruparelia managed the sale of his family home.
Inspired, he raised almost £400,000 with investors via Crowdcube in return for just over 3% of his business. He combined this with a £7,000 loan from relatives, which enabled him to launch Doorsteps outside of his four walls.
And his business model is sound, too.
Instead of the 2-3% commission most property agents apply to a sale – which Ruparelia says averages out as £10,000 a home in London – Doorsteps charges just £99.
He recalls the moment he realised it really had potential – when he found out he’d made his first sale during his lunch break at school.
It was a five-bedroom detached property in East Sussex, but without a car, it was a tough sale, with Ruparelia having to pay his sister’s boyfriend to take him to the property to take photos.
Three weeks later the sale went through – with Ruparelia netting a huge bonus from his bedroom empire.
“It was an unexpected customer from East Sussex who had stumbled across our ‘homemade’ site. I went and took photos, and sold it for half a million pounds within three weeks, and he paid me £99. It proved our model works,” he said.
The owner also decided to sell land next to the house through Doorsteps, which resulted in the company selling £650,000 worth of property for him in total.
“I saw the email and was overjoyed by the fact I had proved our concept and mission. He spread the word and it started growing slowly from there,” Ruparelia said.
The company, now run by a team of 60, has an annual turnover of £1milion – but Ruparelia says he wants to reach £6million by next year.
And the potential is there.
“We have properties all over the UK. We have listed over £1 billion worth of homes and taken 1% of the UK Market Share. This translates to over 7-8,000 properties marketed and customer savings of over £8million now, compared to if they used a high street estate agent,” he said.
The website also has a 91% ‘excellent’ satisfaction rate on Trustpilot, and estimates it’s saved customers a collective £4million in fees.
“We’ve sold Kensington flats for over £2-3million,” he said. “But we charged no more than £99 to sell them. That’s a saving of £20,000 for some customers. That’s what matters to us – achieving our mission!”
But despite soaring sales, he pays himself just £1,000 a month.
Ruparelia now says the Government needs to do more to support the next wave of emerging entrepreneurs.
Spending much of his life as a young carer to his parents, who are both deaf but who handled two jobs each, he said: “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and ambition, whether it was selling sweets at school when I was 12 or 13, or something else.
“Being a young carer along with my sister gave me more responsibility at a younger age, which meant I developed resilience and maturity. It helped with my personal development and I learned to take risks.
“I think we need to change, culturally, away from the constrictions of a simple, monotone grading system and start to understand that we need to develop young, bright, well-rounded individuals – whether entrepreneurs or not,” Ruparelia told Mirror Money.
“The grading system does not capture more holistic soft skills – communication, leadership, and so on.
“Schools alone can try to harness this through extracurricular opportunities to reach beyond their comfort zones and offering more opportunity for kids to fail and learn from the failures, in the safe ecosphere that they’re in.
“If you don’t achieve the grades you want this year, don’t worry. Employers have become much more receptive to skill-sets and varied experiences; in some cases, prioritising this over your university degree (and whether you have one). We are lucky to be in an era of openness and experimentation which some of our previous generations didn’t have, and endless possibility with the internet. Let’s utilise it!”