“I always dreamed to be a successful entrepreneur from my childhood. I utilize techniques of how to motivate your own self for creating something greater than myself. In hard to overcome circumstances, without any guidelines, I have fulfilled my passion of entrepreneurship and creativity through my daily work.” – Imran Sheikh
The Story of Imran Sheikh | Karachi, Pakistan
When the opportunity arose to interview a simple and honest individual, a strong believer of self-made success who overcame his very own hardship, it was a clear and obvious choice. I am inspired and extremely grateful to be writing about Imran Sheikh. His entrepreneurial mindset and struggle was one that took great efforts to overcome. This is the journey of a true self-made entrepreneur not satisfied with corporate Pakistan.
I asked Imran what inspired him to pursue his journey of entrepreneurship; he explained, “My father was a talented individual who inspired me to become an entrepreneur.” As a result, much of Imran’s success today is dedicated to the work ethic of his father, who doubled as a doctor and an entrepreneur. His father’s teachings brought about an entrepreneurial mindset and values of organization and communication.
Imran’s voyage on the path of entrepreneurship started at a young age. He operated a small business in college with his family friend, starting a small store selling software, video games, movies, CDs and Internet connection cards back in 1999. “We worked hard to earn little money, and because of the limited budget we had to close our first venture after just one year.” From there Imran went on to corporate Pakistan with his first job in a local bank as a sales representative. He was responsible for selling credit cards to individuals who earned over $300 per month. It was a start for him and provided the necessary sales and marketing foundation so that he could go on to further ventures.
When asked about his job at the bank, Imran proclaimed “Every day, I had to sell two card applications, I had to keep up that pace if I wanted to keep my job. It was purely commission based with no salary so I was motivated to sell. I worked there for around 10 months and got a good reputation in all departments. But I was not satisfied with my job and low role in the firm so I decided to quit.” It seems as if a recurring theme in the entrepreneurial journey of Imran was that his current role is never good enough, as he is a man who strives for nothing but the best.
He had the right mindset and dedication in his entrepreneurial process. When he was initially identifying his opportunity, he found feasibility and research to be crucial before even taking the first steps towards starting a venture. When asked about how he decided to start his company, Imran explained, “First of all, I had to be clear what exactly I wanted to do as an entrepreneur. I had to learn, search, discuss and find pain points in the industry then identify the trends in which I wanted to enter.” His insight was of great inspiration to me and his core values of organization and communication provide a flawless approach for achieving success in his journey.
“The more you know, the better.” Imran stated as he explained that testing the feasibility of an idea is always useful when starting a new venture. He went on to mention “It [research and planning] helps to create path in successful entrepreneurship. Don’t allow your fears to control yourself, if you think it is right then go ahead and do it. Do your research and if all signs say go, jump on it!” His insight rivals the greatest minds of our generation. Without any formal entrepreneurial learning, he has found that testing and putting in the work ahead of time ultimately leads to success. He strives to be the best in his field and his entrepreneurial process is one of hard work, self-improvement and dedication. It seemed to have worked well for Imran as after he found his passion was of creative nature rather than the ridged and confining rules of the banking sector, he quickly shifted to graphic design.
Imran was associated with an IT company in Karachi, Pakistan as a graphic designer and promoted to Quality Assurance Executive for 7 years; he became fed up with the position and wanted change, “my salary was very low, and the hours were very long” he said during an in-depth interview. It was his passion and drive for change that led him down a path towards starting his own company. I really respect his drive and need for change, as life is what you make it. Not only was entrepreneurship a mission for Imran, it was a method of survival, as after he got married and had his first son his expenses increased rapidly. His strong family values motivated him as Imran said, “I was keen to do something greater to provide for my family. I was hand to mouth that time and it pushed me to do something on my own.” His outstanding work ethic followed by this passion to support his family was what made Imran successful in following his dreams
Imran is full of creativity and inspiration, as a result of working in graphic design he believes that creativity is a skill, not a natural talent. He is a team player and capable of working with any professional individual or company. His inspiration comes from not one, but many sources. “I always take inspiration from successful individuals from around the world. So, I do not have a primary inspiration as this world is full of influencers and creativity.” It is this hard work and reliability which makes any venture lead by Imran a good one to invest in.
As the CEO and creative director simultaneously of a leading design firm in Pakistan, Imran has almost 20 people from different countries around the world working for his firm. Under the same roof, he runs two companies, Designtist Studio and LogoSpecialist.net which both flourish in online business and graphic design. His key role is in the development of high-level concepts and in the design projects. Imran stated, “I have worked with both external and internal clients and know the requirements and needs of both of them. Apart from all these, I’m also responsible in the recruiting and managing of the design firms and other design resources. Other than this, I’m responsible with graphic designing and helping in drawing advertisement, logos, mobile apps, web mockups allowing for full scale quality assurance and maximum productivity.”
When attempting to measure Imran’s success, his struggle and drive for improvement become large factors. He had a clear and simple goal: “How can I start my own graphic design company?” Many factors were working in his favor. The emergence of web 2.0 focused on ecommerce and social media provided a good platform for his logo, branding and design company. Another factor working in his favor was that his wife (Tania Imran) was also a graphic designer and fine artist. She always supported him through difficult times and motivates him to succeed. Together they started LogoSpecialist.net in 2007. Although many factors were working in Imran’s favor, he still had many barriers to overcome. “I struggled a lot to setup a website because I don’t know development. I hired local freelancers but the things didn’t work as per agreement, so I launched website with only our portfolio at the time.” He and his wife participated in their very first design contest in 2009 and won, resulting in self-confidence and validation that a plausible and sustainable venture could be born.
Even with this newfound success, even more barriers arose for Imran, “My routine became very tough as I used to work the whole night dealing with clients online due to time zone issues and a global marketplace.” It didn’t stop there, as after Imran had successfully generated leads, the next day he would have to wake up early on little to no sleep and manage his entire team in the office. He mentioned, “I was doing the same job, over and over again. Sleeping at most four hours a night. After one year straight, I decided that I could not take it any longer. In January 2010, I decided to resign from my job.” Eventually the success and workload caught up to him. He resigned from his job and started focus on his own venture, he setup small home based office and build online community of professionals from around the globe. He usually hires talented people online for project-to-project basis and some are permanent members.
Imran went from working extremely hard, to working smart and utilizing his resources, scaling the company while still being able to get a good nights rest. I would definitely classify his mindset and abilities as an entrepreneur to be successful.
Imran taught me a lot about entrepreneurship. There is a preconceived notion that becoming a successful entrepreneur is all glamor and fame; however, no entrepreneur is an overnight success. His hard work and dedication paired with a strong work ethic inherited from his father, made me re-evaluate my habits to utilize time efficiently. I would invest in Imran due to his passion and dedication to his venture and articulated awareness of detail. He works hard; however, unlike most, he actually plans his next steps and evaluates his decisions leveraging core competences for sustainable competitive advantage. Imran was truly and inspiration and his journey is one worth admiring.
Learn more about Imran Sheikh on LinkedIn