This was certainly the case with Kaan Aydogmus, an economics graduate from Istanbul’s top university who appeared to be all set for a career with JP Morgan Chase & Co.
“I passed the selection process and was invited for a second interview at the London headquarters for a coveted management trainee role,” explained Aydogmus. “I was super excited about leaving Turkey for the financial capital of the world – but I didn’t get through to the last stage.”
He found himself without a job and little idea about what to do next. “My mum was about the only person who was happy about the news because she didn’t want me to leave,” he remembered.
Having worked at several jobs in Istanbul, Aydogmus did finally get to London and secured a place studying for a post-graduate diploma in design for visual communication at the London College of Communication at the University of the Arts London.
He’d always wanted to start his own company and, as an economics graduate, he felt pretty well equipped to do.
“I decided to take the leap,” he said.” I had nothing to lose. I thought to myself, let’s have go, try it for a year, and if it doesn’t work out I can always go back to working for other people.”
Much of the business and management skills that he was expecting to put into practice at JP Morgan Chase & Co before he was rejected by the company were adapted for a much, much smaller business – his own.
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Magnetic London is a multi-disciplinary design and communication agency, providing a wide range of services to clients around the world. True to his Turkish roots Aydogmus has set up offices in Istanbul as well as London.
“Setting up Magnetic London was my first experience of starting a business from scratch although I had been responsible for running big projects in previous jobs,” he added.
“While at university in Istanbul, I was the head of the scuba diving club which had more than 400 members. When I look back now, it prepared me well. It was like running a fairly sizeable company, and the day-to-day management and workload wasn’t much different from what I have to deal with today.”
Part of the appeal of setting up a design consultancy is that the initial outlay is considerably less than it might be with other businesses. “You need a Mac, which I had, and a few design software applications, and off you go,” he commented. “With savings from my previous jobs, I went it alone, at first freelancing in London and then building up a portfolio of clients.”
That said, his first year was tough and there were times when going back to work for another company did seem appealing. “I was just out of design school, with a very limited portfolio of work to show potential customers,” he explained. “I was finding small clients here and there but generally people wanted to see previous examples of work. I had to accept free or very cheap work just for the sake of building up my portfolio.”
However, he stuck at it and things did begin to change for the better. “Slowly, once the outcomes got stronger, the projects began to get bigger. Although not easy, looking back now, it was a terrific exercise in the early days about lead generation and client management.”
He was soon able to bring on board a much needed extra pair of hands. “The jump from a one-man-band to a mini company changed everything,” he says. “It took the burden off my shoulders, freeing me up to think strategically and focus more on developing and growing the business.”
Today the company, which offers print and web design, logo and branding as well as app and game design, is growing both in the UK and in Turkey. In addition to its geographical spread, Aydogmus has also worked to differentiate the company with the services it provides to clients.
“We offer augmented reality campaigns, which not many other companies around the world can offer,” he said. “Augmented Reality bridges the gap between print and digital content via a smartphone app, bringing printed images ‘to life’. Currently, we are considering expanding our operations, setting up offices in Barcelona and Berlin. In addition to augmented reality, we are also exploring how we can make use of virtual reality technology. We’ve started trialling that, and within the next few months, we are hoping to add that to our menu of services.”
Other than not getting a job with JP Morgan Chase, Aydogmus believes that his biggest break in business has been taking on that first employee.
“Recruiting the right people is crucial,” he added. “Employees are the most important ingredient to a business like ours. So choose carefully and ensure you get on with them as you’ll be spending a lot of time with that first recruit until the business starts growing. Try and hire someone to join your business as soon as you can possibly afford to. You can then refocus on growing.”