What I did after Wrapit folded
Wrapit gift list service protesting outside HSBC in 2008
When Pepita Diamand's upmarket wedding gift list company Wrapit went bankrupt in 2008, her professional reputation was shredded.
The company's collapse caused a huge furore - thousands of newlyweds and brides-to-be were left without gifts, wedding guests faced a combined loss of an estimated £700,000 and victims staged protests outside HSBC, Wrapit's main creditor. Almost two years on and Ms Diamand, who says she lost everything in the process, is starting to rebuild her career, working as a brand consultant for retail companies with an online presence.
The estimated 4,000 victims who lost out in the Wrapit collapse might question her credentials to do so.
She explains: "Some of my previous suppliers approached me to see if I could help them. That's when I realised that I actually had a real opportunity to offer my expertise as a creative consultant for retail and service brands looking to grow their online presence.
"Not many people have ten years' of experience working both on and offline. There are many people who are purely online and there are offline people who are looking at online but don't really get it." A former fashion journalist, Ms Diamand launched the service about a year ago. Clients range from small to large businesses and include leather goods company Aspinal of London, Bond Street luxury retailer Aspery and mytights.com.
According to Ms Diamand, the Wrapit fallout was "out of her hands. "And I think people appreciate that. From a business perspective, my clients and the people that I work with know that what I did with Wrapit was to build and create a stunning brand."
Following the demise of Wrapit, she considered launching a table-wear business at the end of 2008 but realised the timing was not right. "I took my foot off the pedal for a bit and let myself heal." But the Wrapit debacle is still never far from her thoughts.
"It was a traumatic experience," she says. "One of the worst things was seeing how my staff across the UK were dealing with it. I would have staff members coming into my office crying and I wasn't able to tell them that it would be alright. It was very difficult to see them go through it."
The company had employed 100-plus people across 15 showrooms nationwide.
Canadian-born Ms Diamand, who came to Britain originally to study for a degree at St Andrews, had made a loan to Wrapit of "essentially everything I had, and I lost it". She was forced to take in a lodger at her one-and-a-half bed apartment in Battersea. "I lost everything - my security. Yet worse than losing the money was losing my identity. Wrapit was something I really loved and I threw everything into it. I had a financial and an emotional investment in it.
"If you put all your eggs in one basket and that basket falls off the table then you're in trouble, and maybe that's a regret."
It must all seem a far cry from the company's promising early days. Inspired by a summer attending friends' weddings, she set up Wrapit together with Peter Gelardi - a colleague from her previous job at World Telecom - in 2000. The two are no longer in regular contact and Mr Gelardi has since set up an online gift firm.
Ms Diamand, now in her late 30s, was chosen as one of Management Today magazine's 35 women under 35 to watch in 2006, and the firm won several awards for its customer service.
Yet despite Wrapit's growing reputation, it failed to make a profit, and when their lead investor got caught up in the Northern Rock crisis in 2007, the business "turned on its head".
Ms Diamand believes Wrapit's bank, HSBC, was at fault. "HSBC decided to restrict our cash and made it so difficult to trade normally. They appeared to have decided that they didn't want us to continue trading. If HSBC had been supportive, we would have got through and our couples wouldn't have lost out."
A spokesman for the bank at the time said: "HSBC refutes any suggestion that HSBC was responsible for the company's failure. HSBC believes it has done all it can to assist the directors."
Wrapit, which heavily relied on investment from friends, family and small institutional investors, was always under-funded and Ms Diamand says she "saw the collapse coming. I was in a meeting with potential investors the night before Wrapit went under. There was a belief right until the bitter end that we would get through."