How This Young Designer Turned His Passion Into A Full-fledged Business [Part 01]
Few years back, a 13 year old kid, rising above the average teenage scenario, discovered his knack for graphic design and from then onward devoted every moment of his life to it. As a result, now at the age of 19, he owns a 5 years old advertising agency with both national and international clients and also dreams of going global. This ‘no more a kid’ is none other than Atif Ahmed Akkhor, Founder and CEO of IONSKETCH.
I recently had an opportunity to have a chit-chat with this young talent. He walked me down the journey of IONSKETCH till date and I was amazed by obsession to create something unique and his reluctance of acting according to other’s will which is why he found his peace in entrepreneurship.
It all started in 2009 when Atif was only 13 years old. Although he is not a professional artist, Atif had been to art school and loved drawing. He started exploring his graphic design skills with his brother’s ‘hand-me-down’ pc with only 50GB and 512RAM. “It took hours and hours to render an image in that pc, but I was ready to spend every moment chasing my passion”- Atif says. When he started getting a better understanding of designing software, Atif decided to step into field of professional design.
His initial clients were his family friends who appreciated his work and creativity. After working all by himself for few projects, in November 2009, he wanted to work with other creative minds. In order to get people to work with him, and driven by his passion to make a difference in the society through his designs, Atif thought of opening his own venture and named it ‘IONSKETCH’.
It took hours and hours to render an image in that pc, but I was ready to spend every moment chasing my passion.
Initial Funding And The Bumpy Ride
Ionsketch started its journey with a sluggish pc, loads of passion and yes, family support. “I was only an absent-minded student struggling with mathematical terms back then. I convinced my parents to keep an adequate balance between my studies and work as they did not want me to compromise with studies. Although it might sound unreasonable, I had to invest nothing to start off my venture”- says Atif.
Once the family friends started appreciating Atif’s work, soon Ionsketch was approached by more clients. That’s when Atif hired his first employee, who also was of his age and knew nothing about designing but could operate Adobe Illustrator decently. Ionsketch continued working at a small scale designing business cards and brochures.
As more friends of family friends wanted Atif to design for their companies, he kept getting better and better in his designs. His first ever international client was from India, who wanted him to design for his startup. Atif snorts while remembering how his client specified that he wanted Ionsketch only to design for him, no matter how much it cost.
But the journey of Ionsketch has not been as rosy as it seems. Atif remembers all those months when he had no clients and no work and his initial employees left his side once they grew themselves up.
The Turning Point
On a mundane day in 2011, Atif received a phone call from his friend who asked him to come to a coffee shop to meet the then CEO of Secure Link Services (SELISE), a Swiss software & engineering company. The meeting was no different from other ones. Atif was asked to prepare within a week a sample brochure for the company which Atif finished within 5 days. Soon after he submitted the brochure, the next meeting was called upon in the then Sheraton Hotel.
Atif received immense appreciation for his efficient work and offered a contract for Ionsketch to design almost everything for the company. After this, Atif was also handed down the responsibility to brand SELISE thereby widening its working horizons. Atif acknowledges SELISE to be a significant name in the history of Ionsketch having contributed to its growth immensely. SELISE is now one of the largest software companies in Bangladesh and operates in two more continents.
SELISE introduced Atif and his venture to a Swiss ad agency for which he stepped deeper into the field of branding and advertising and gain significant exposure in the Swiss ad field.
With each day passing, Ionsketch is gaining more and more exposure both within the country and overseas. In 2013, Ionsketch launched a campaign ‘Design for Bangladesh’ to promote the potentials of Bangladesh internationally. Later that year, Ionsketch first came out of home to a more professional setting when Atif rented a 400 sq.ft office space in Paribagh, Dhaka. Ionsketch has also its Accounts office in New York to deal with international clients.
Atif believes that it is their mutual relationship based on trust and cooperation which has led to the current growth of Ionsketch. The clients of Ionsketch never fail to speak highly of it because of the remarkable content that it provides and their amiable attitude with which they work.
Credit: Story by Fatema Mohammad for Future Startup, Edited by Sabidin Ibrahim, Images by Ionsketch
Fatema takes interviews, writes features, and meets entrepreneurs and makers and doers at Future Startup.