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 so ended up panic buying a rather expensive pair of earrings at the last minute. When the friend opened the box, her muted response told Casey that the earrings weren’t quite right.

“What should have been a joyful experience turned out to be a little awkward for us both,” says Casey.

It did, however, spark a gem of a business idea – Foke – offering curated gifts, sourced from unusual, design-led independent brands, either prepared in gift boxes in advance and sold online, or sourced bespoke based on budget and the tastes and interests of the recipient.

Casey has always enjoyed giving gifts as much as receiving them and firmly believes that the gift giving experience should be as rewarding for both the giver and the recipient. This fuels Foke’s mission and led to their tagline – “They’re happy. You’re happy. We’re happy.”

Based in Hilton, a chocolate-box village nestled deep in Dorset’s countryside, the Foke headquarters is the home Casey shares with husband Dan, which has 360-degree panoramic views of verdant countryside – summing up the company’s ethical, sustainable and independent spirit.

Bournemouth Echo: Photo: Dave LewisPhoto: Dave Lewis

Foke is as much about the service as it is the products. Each gift is thoughtfully curated from a selection of handpicked brands, packaged in a luxury gift box and sent directly to the recipient.

“I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with how presents are wrapped and presented," says Casey, who handwrites a gift message on a notecard enclosed within every gift box.

"I think half the joy of receiving a gift is the experience of opening it.”

Casey previously owned a women's clothing and lifestyle store in Blandford Forum and says the key to the shop’s success was the personal experience she offered her customers, which not only included a personal shopping service, but every item purchased was beautifully wrapped before being given to the customer.

All of Foke’s packaging is 100 per cent sustainable plus, for each box sold, the company cleans a square metre of Dorset coastline “throughout the autumn and winter when all the tourists go home and the beach cleaning services stop,” says Casey.

Bournemouth Echo: Photo: Dave LewisPhoto: Dave Lewis

Casey runs Foke with her husband Dan, a graphic designer, illustrator and animator. They have worked together for many years, as they also own a small boutique design agency called Caravan. This means Dan has been able to design all of the branding and packaging for Foke and build the online store himself.

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 corporate clients who would like bespoke, branded gift boxes for corporate gifts.

The couple launched Foke in August 2019, initially to corporate clients. They then expanded during the autumn/winter of 2019 to friends and family. They had 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 sales soared as the appetite for personal, curated gifts rocketed, says Casey.

“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."

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.

For a bespoke experience, people often call up with a budget, explaining a little about who they are buying for and she collates four different "gift edits" that the buyer can choose from.

Bournemouth Echo: Photo: Dave LewisPhoto: Dave Lewis

Casey is now curating a selection of luxury autumn/winter gift edits ready for Christmas, ranging from £23 – £84.