In this captivating episode of “Love Life, Live Well,” host Emma Cartmel chats with dynamic entrepreneur, Darshana Ubl, to explore their incredible journeys and the exciting worlds of Verve Valley Adventures and MayfairSilk. Darshana shares her wisdom on living life with enthusiasm and congruence, emphasising the importance of fun and meaningful connections. She takes us on a thrilling ride through Verve Valley Adventures, where luxury travel, friendship, and giving back come together in exhilarating rally experiences. She also reveals the secrets of MayfairSilk, a company redefining luxury bedding with innovative, contemporary silk products. Discover the unique properties of silk, its impact on restful sleep, and the passion behind Darshana’s mission to add value to people’s lives through quality products.
What do you love about your life or life itself?
What’s not there to love? I mean, life is a gift and it is like one of those things you make of it and so that’s the exciting part and the more, the older I get, the wiser I get in terms of understanding how to extract the juice of life. In many ways, it’s manifesting your dreams. It’s your soul’s journey of being able to realise. all the things that you wanted to do and experiences you wanted to have and the people you wanted to meet and for me, that is the exciting thing about life.
How do you make sure that you look after yourself and live well?
Living well is different things to different people. For me, it is first of all, being very congruent to who I am, is to wake up in the morning and being pumped about life, of wanting to do things that my heart desires and yes, there is also hard work involved. There are parts, there are pieces in the puzzle where you don’t always get to do things that you like, but you do them with enthusiasm. So life is about enthusiasm, to live well for me also has a lot to do with health and health being more in a holistic manner. I feel the world these days is very focused on health from a very pill-popping culture for instance, a quick fix, versus living well in tune with nature or balancing small things like your alkaline and acidity in the foods you have. And so I feel, to be able to live well and have high energy, I have been focusing quite a lot on nutrition and natural ways of keeping fit and keeping well and that allows me a healthy body, healthy mind and that allows me to enjoy and create the life that really excites me.
Can you take us back to your first businesses? You’ve successfully exited two businesses now. Can you just sort of tell us where it all began?
Absolutely. So in 2011, I moved to the UK. I was based in Singapore before that. And I moved to the UK on an entrepreneur visa. So you have to actually apply to the government and you have to have a bit of capital with you, which I had accumulated or saved from previous jobs and you know, there comes a time in your life when you have to invest in yourself because no one else will. So the craziest thing I probably ever did in my life is moved to the UK and in the same year I started a new business. The business was a daily deal company and back in 2011 Groupon, Living Social, these kind of companies were all the rage and it was funny, it was also the time when austerity was talked about on television and this was helping people save and I started a business with a great business plan, worked really hard, 18 hours a day, but the needle wasn’t moving much. So for the first, almost the first 18 months, it was a tough kick, but we persevered and the thing that worked for us is there was a change in the industry where bigger companies started acquiring smaller companies for the database and we had a phenomenal database with a lot of repeat sales. Hence we got a few good people in the market wanting to acquire us and we struck a good deal. So. from having lots of, lots of, like, there was a lot of activity. One thing I learned from that business is that activity does not equal to success. This entire thing of, you know, if I work, keep working hard and work all hours, you know, I’m gonna be successful. No, it’s more about strategic planning and what got us the exit eventually was that our repeat purchase matrix of customers was really high. and that our customer service was so good that people just kept calling and buying a lot and that kind of showed I mean in the quality of the database.
The second thing I learned is about the market. This was the cheap and cheerful market where people wanted a bargain, a discount. That’s not something I was very familiar with. The reason I went into that business plan is because I understood the advertisers point of view. I knew how easy it would be to get merchants on board. That’s where my experience lie. But I really didn’t have the mindset of somebody who is a discount shopper. So the second lesson I learned was that understand where the target market, what’s the target market you want to cater to and define it. So that was a really good lesson, which eventually in my current businesses, you know, I’ve got the target markets really nailed and they help both businesses but coming back to the second, it was my partner who actually, Marcus, who founded it, I became the CEO of it and we together, we worked on business exit, both him and me got an exit in that was fantastic. I was back and in fact, I met you through Intrivo. That was wonderful and some amazing entrepreneurs and I kept in touch with them. I’ve been, you know, launched into the world of public speaking, also being able to represent UK small businesses on BBC News several times, that was fantastic and of course, all that experience then translated, one thing leads to another in business and once we saw that, saw the stake in that, the next thing we wanted to get in. was something where we could have fun. We realized that we’ve spent a lot of time behind the computer, and there’s more to life than just, we wanted a rocking chair, something that we test where we can look back in 40 years and say, wow, we did that. So after Marcus exited that business, I asked him, what is it that you’d like to do? And he said, travel. We got a really nice. you know, a car with a weird engine and he’s like, I want to take this to Europe and I want to travel with you and yeah, we decided to come up with something that where he could do that and I could have a few more people with me and have more fun all combined.
You’ve done quite a lot of charity work, haven’t you? How does that fit into your life ability to give back through running a great business?
Yeah, it’s not just about the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, driving them and, you know, staying in five-star hotels. It’s more about creating a community of like-minded people who then come together and do something meaningful. So, for instance, in 2019, we raised 50,000 pounds from the Make-A-Wish Foundation because they create experiences for children in that are going through a tough time and that was a charity we wanted to support then. But with that, we also had contacts in the hotel industry. A lot of them donated certain rooms, certain packages. We have people in the art world who donated stuff, it really came together. The community also had a few, like people had holiday homes, or they had some piece of art, for instance. They were like, yeah, this is worth X, but you know, feel free to, we donated for charity.
So that was just brilliant to see everybody come together and do that. So we’ve done a few of these and we want to continue doing that. We also plant trees, we are the first carbon neutral rally in Europe and UK, second in the world. We calculate the trees and how many trees we have to plant based on the engine size and the miles that we are doing. And then we plant trees. So basically, carbon isn’t bad because carbon is needed for plants. So it’s all about offsetting carbon. You can’t really go carbon zero. Carbon zero is a scary thing because plants need carbon but you can lower it and that’s what we’re here to do, we plant trees since the beginning and have been featured in a lot of media, et cetera, for that and it’s something we started doing before all the other global agendas came in, we just thought what we take from nature, we give back.
So my final question really is if someone is listening and wants to either. build a brand themselves or a personal brand because you’ve done both, what piece of advice would you give them?
So building a personal brand is very important in this crowded world to stand out and be seen. There’s very, also some people are famous for being famous, there’s a distinction. You need to be a person who’s famous because you’ve contributed to it something. You need to be very clear as to what is it that you stand for because if you stand for everything, you fall for. Or if you stand for nothing, you fall for everything, right? But there has to be a very clear statement or message as to what is it that you stand for, why would people want to listen to you? And then a little bit more about your credibility in terms of what you’ve done before, etc. Once you’ve got that and you know what your message to the world is, then it is very important to put your best foot forward and I would say for that it’s important to get good photographs done. Step number one, we live in a very audiovisual world so get some good photos done. Have a message, if people are interviewing you, quote on a certain topic and yeah, I think one thing leads to another.
If I think about like, gone on to Mary Claire from there, you know, it was from there, so once you’re in the media and you have that exposure, if your message is clear, you will get the traction. You will get opportunities, people will reach out and say, we want to interview you. We’d like you to comment on a certain thing, get your message out there, how can you help the world? That’s the other thing, by talking to you, what insights can they get? And how are you there? How are you showing up for them to? For them to be more interested in you and for you to be able to help them at the end of the day, the more you can help people, the more visibility you get and a fundamental thing in that is also to have one or two people who really believe in you and have them close and you know it doesn’t take too many people to believe in you. Self-confidence at the end of the day comes from within but it really helps if there’s not much friction around you too. It just helps, it’s that added bit of boost. When I connect with people I spend time, I think about them and I deliberately will go out of my way if I can to keep that connection because I feel that is important and you never know, you know, in life one thing leads to another, but that good energy that you share with somebody is priceless. It not only helps the other person, but also yourself and it keeps you in a positive frame of mind and we can’t take life too seriously you know, none of us are getting out of this alive.