SOKA Studio: Five years on

This month, graphic design and website development agency, SOKA Studio, are celebrating their fifth anniversary.

Founder and Director, Sophie Karaer, has been running her business since October 2015, becoming Limited in April 2018.

Sophie spoke to CityX in an exclusive interview about how the past five years have been:

 Tell us about the business?
SOKA Studio is an award-winning graphic design agency, specialising in logos, websites and promotional content for both print and screen. We work with SME businesses from a huge range of industries across the UK. Our approach has always been to create idea-led, timeless designs for our clients. We instil brand values into exceptional visual content to achieve the maximum positive impact for our clients.

Why did you start your business?
I graduated with a First Class Degree in Graphic Design & Advertising in 2010. I then went on to work for design agencies in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire where I refined my style and approach and developed my working experience in the industry. Since learning the principles of design, my ambition has always been to use my skills to directly help business owners achieve their goals, and to make a measurable impact on their success.

I love the process of meeting clients, working with them to clarify their business needs, and then interpreting that understanding into visual designs that encapsulate their vision. I thrive off seeing the difference my design work makes to the businesses I work with. In 2015, I made the brave decision to go self-employed, I began to build my own client base, providing those I worked for with idea-led, beautiful, timeless designs that were affordable and that made a real difference to them.

Tell us about how the past five years have been?
I had to learn a lot in the first year as I was completely new to running a business. I outsourced some of the admin and accounts, as this meant I could focus on doing what I was best at, creating the designs that my clients consistently told me were exactly what they were looking for! In year two, I began to frequently collaborate with Matthew (Our now lead web developer). This meant I was able to offer my clients a professional web development service, as well as design.

Over the third year, whilst maintaining and growing my client base, I did lots of training in business management and growth, made available to me through various Lincolnshire business development initiatives. This was the year I registered SOKA as a Limited Company and it was also the year I took on my first full-time member of staff. The last two years have seen SOKA win and be nominated for multiple business awards, we took on more staff and won large-scale, global client contracts. All the while, retaining the values of a consistently excellent, idea-led design service. In the past year we’ve received over 40 five-star reviews from our clients on Google. Our clients continue to return to us for ongoing graphic design work, and as a team, we absolutely love working together on the projects we take on board.

How has your business changed over time?
5 years ago I was working alone from my tiny rented maisonette in Birchwood from an old cranky laptop, with only a small handful of clients. Today I work from a stunning office space on the beautiful Mann Island in Liverpool, with an incredibly talented and focused team by my side.

I think this progression over 5 years is a testament to everything SOKA achieves for our clients. When I began, all of our clients were Lincolnshire based. Those clients have hugely supported SOKA on our journey, and still remain with us today. In the past 12 months 42% of our sales have come from Lincolnshire, 36% from London, and the rest spread evenly across the rest of the UK and abroad. We’ve established a fantastic trusted network of skilled creatives, from copywriters to illustrators, photographers, videographers and SEO specialists, who we are now able to confidently work in collaboration with. This offers our clients a really rounded, one-stop solution for their business marketing needs.

What are some of the business’ key achievements over the past five years?
Winning the 2019 Micro Business of the Year Award at the Lincolnshire Tech & Innovation Awards was a really fantastic marker of all of the work that had gone into the business up until that point. It really made me see how far SOKA had come. I see our greatest achievements in the successes we’ve seen our clients achieve since working with us. A particularly notable successful client relationship has been with our client Iconic London. We began working with the owner of the company Jade Ellott in 2015 to restyle their brand aesthetic, which at the time was made up of quite harsh and heavily contrasting blacks, neon pinks and cluttered, busy graphic styles. We listened carefully to Jade’s brand vision, and began to create assets for Iconic that instilled the luxe, considered, minimalist, high-fashion aesthetic associated with the brand today. When we started working with Jade, she was running Iconic from her bedroom.

Today, her products are featured in Vogue, used by the likes of Kim Kardashian and stocked in one of the most prestigious department stores in the UK. She said, “Sophie has always been such an asset to the business – she has an amazing eye, is super easy to work with and so quick. I couldn’t recommend her enough!”.

What are your goals for the future?
My goal for the next 12 months is to take on board a Junior Graphic Designer. Over the past five years, we’ve provided work experience placements to many design students and graduates from Universities across the UK, and I’ve always found it a really positive experience for both them and us. We’re now at a stage where we’re looking to employ the right candidate to grow within our team. Our aim long term is to remain a small, focused, creative team, with a healthy, mindful and positive working culture. We will continue to provide our existing clients with all of the highest quality design and development support they are used to, whilst growing our client base, and adding to our diverse, exciting and successful portfolio.

Click Here to find out more about SOKA Studio.