Inan Gokcek on turning his dream of running a design practice into reality.
Inan decided to study Architecture at LSBU, and in 2016 he secured a place on the Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme (GES), with the aim of turning his dream of running a design practice into reality.
A scheme to kickstart his future plans
“Even before I graduated I knew that I wanted to build up my own practice, so the scheme made perfect sense,” he says. “I’d spent around 12 years improving my skills in different fields by working for other designers, but if you want your own designs to become reality, being self-employed is pretty much essential. As a result, I figured it was better to start sooner rather than later.”
Inan’s Studio Anares is now a multidisciplinary design practice, spanning product to architectural design, working both in residential and commercial fields. “Although it can be very stressful sometimes, it’s equally very rewarding to know that while I may only be making a small change, what I am doing could be very positive for the people who will be using the space for coming years,” he says.
A positive first two years
Inan is rightly proud of the progress he made in his first year. “It was difficult, no doubt,” he admits. “With only a year under your belt, you are a long way from being financially stable and that was frustrating, especially because you obviously have significant outgoings from the very start. It can be easy to lose confidence in yourself, but the people I met on GES certainly were a major help when it came to keeping my morale up.”
Now in his second year of operation, Inan has added three new projects to his portfolio, which he says have already brought new opportunities and, more importantly, seen his learning curve rise sharply. “In purely financial terms, I’ve doubled the revenue, which is very positive, but it still lower than what it should be. I am still learning to be businessman while I am well aware that I have to keep my role as a designer on top of everything.
“In terms of interesting projects and clients, I have to mention a mixed-use major development I’ve been involved in; it’s a two-hectare site that consists of a community centre with eight flats for an Indian community in Leicester. We also converted an old church on the site to a part of the community centre, which I am most proud of. I have also worked on a house project in Balham for a newly-wed couple, where I doubled the property in terms of size, which was something that went beyond their expectations. Projects such as these that involve seeing your sketches turning into real spaces, shapes and materials, but, most importantly, seeing people using and embracing them, are the most awarding thing for a designer.”
Learning to overcome challenges
“It is always tricky and even scary to enter a new area that you haven't experienced before, especially when you take on real-life responsibilities on which people will spend a great amount of money based on what you draw,” reveals Inan. To overcome this, he says that being modest, seeking help and teaming up is the way to go. “As an example, with the Leicester project, I received help from an architect friend and the GES Team, which made the process much smoother. Alongside this, working with reputable consultants who provided great services really helped to see it succeed. Working with good people means you can generally overcome anything and end up with something special.”
Looking to the future
Inan says it is impossible to overstate what he has learned in the past two years, and that the many contacts he has made are already helping to open new doors to exciting new opportunities. “I am constantly working on my portfolio to show how I worked and explain to clients that a design business is not just about the ‘final look’. In terms of projects, my aim is to specialise in commercial and cultural fields in which I can design and work for a wider range of people rather than simply individuals’ own taste in residential projects. In this way I will have more freedom as a designer and so believe I can contribute more.”