The Entrepreneur: Sukhy Cheema, Branding London

Branding London is a multi-award winning design agency, with over ten years of industry experience helping startups, SMEs and large corporations develop a unique, market leading brand

About Us

Startups was founded over 20 years ago by a serial entrepreneur. Today, our expert team of writers, researchers, and editors work to provide our 4 million readers with useful tips and information, as well as running award-winning campaigns. We interview successful entrepreneurs from all over the UK, celebrating their achievements, hard work, and determination to get to where they are today. This article was authored by:

Company: Branding London
Founder: Sukhy Cheema
Website: brandinglondon.co.uk

Sukhy isn’t just the founder of multi-award winning design agency Branding London. He is also Chair of Brand, Marketing and Communications at the Inspiring Leadership Trust, and has a number of impressive accolades to his name throughout his successful tenure so far as an entrepreneur – including an appearance on BBC One’s ‘The Apprentice’.

His design agency has won countless awards, most recently ‘Branding Agency of the Year 2021’ at the Greater London Enterprise Awards, and boasts some top clients including Cisco, HP and Microsoft.

Sukhy, CEO of Branding London, speaks to Startups about his well-received appearance on ‘The Apprentice’, the challenges of starting a design agency with little to no guidance, and the importance of networking as an entrepreneur.

The Business

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique?

We are a dynamic and versatile design agency working with startups, established businesses and multinational organisations. We have vast experience working across all sectors and focus on the medium to high end market.

What sets us apart from traditional design agencies is by working with us, you are gaining a strategic design partner that will work with you to truly understand, and meet your business objectives. Branding London is where creativity meets business strategy. Taking into consideration the competitive landscape, we can help define your brand positioning, by creating a unique brand that fills a gap or niche in the marketplace and aims to define your business or product as a market leader.

We understand that with a lot of our clients, particularly startup businesses, that the process of bringing your idea to life can be a daunting one. Branding London works with you every step of the way, bridging the gap between strategy, design and tech to provide the necessary support you need to achieve your goals. Your success means we grow together and build something that is authentic, stands out and is here to stay.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

In August last year, I was fortunate enough to win ‘Creative Executive of the Year' (Bronze Award) in the 18th Annual ‘International Business Awards’ 2021. Other winners in the creative category included many leading global organisations such as; IBM and Alibaba Group.

For Branding London this is a huge achievement, having our work recognised globally whilst only being an SME. Branding requirements are different from country to country, and so are the customers and competitive conditions. I am proud that we as a business have a good understanding of different global marketplaces and cultures.

What has been your most interesting branding and design challenge to date?

One of the most interesting experiences was being chosen to design product packaging for the TV show ‘The Apprentice’. My challenge was to create a luxury packaging solution with a small group of candidates during a live time-restricted task, which was later aired on BBC One. I designed the brand for a high end candle and diffuser called ‘Beach Dreams’ which received positive feedback on the show from Lord Sugar, as well as the other judges, media and the public.

One of my most interesting experiences was being chosen to design product packaging for the TV show 'The Apprentice’. I designed the brand for a high end candle and diffuser called ‘Beach Dreams’, which received positive feedback on the show from Lord Sugar, as well as the other judges, media and the public.

How did you fund your business?

Since launching in 2015, the business has been bootstrapped. We have not taken any external funding to date, and are currently in a good position to continue to shape the business and determine any future outcomes for Branding London. Nevertheless, there is potential for further growth and we would consider external investment when we feel the time and conditions are right for us to take the next step.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

We manage our own SEO campaign in-house, which accounts for just over 50% of our total revenue. This means that we are always looking at our numbers on Google Ads, analytics and our own website metrics, to continue to optimise and improve our campaigns and website experience. As a digital agency, our online presence is key and ensures potential clients can find us easily and recognise us as a leader in the search listings.

To what extent does your business trade internationally?

Around 20% of our total business consists of international projects, predominantly based in the US and Dubai. We enjoy working with clients internationally as it really gives us a chance to understand the diverse global marketplace, and challenge ourselves by bringing fresh thinking and design ideas to the table.

Where would you like your business to be in five years?

We want to be recognised as the first choice ‘strategic design partner’ for businesses who want to launch their new services or products in the UK marketplace. Branding London aspires to be a pioneer and leader in the creative industry world-wide, not only through breathtaking designs and ideas, but creating conscious brands that change lives, help the planet and produce a positive impact all round.

What software or technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

For us, it has to be the ‘Adobe Creative Cloud’. By using the Adobe suite of programs, we are able to achieve seamless consistency across all of our design outputs. All of Adobe’s apps are in the Creative Cloud, so you can access the latest version of the software from anywhere in the world, without worrying about which device you are using, and keeping your data secure.


Growth challenges

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in business?

Each day is a learning curve and new challenge, which I see as an opportunity to gain valuable experience and grow.

For me, the biggest challenge I overcame was starting up the business with little to no guidance. The starting up phase was hard work, but also hugely rewarding as I was doing something that I have a passion for and am good at doing. The biggest challenge in the design industry is generally customer retention, and being seen as ‘just a designer’.

I quickly found a niche thanks to my tech background and passion for design and business, being able to add value to our clients as a strategic partner, regardless of size and industry. This approach set the foundation for Branding London and we have been growing ever since.

What was your biggest business mistake and what did you learn from it?

Not having a well documented business plan in place when we launched. I made the mistake as a young entrepreneur of being too wary about planning far ahead too soon, but have since learned how essential it is to help set the right foundation, overall vision and goals for a business.

Having a business plan in place not only creates a great first impression for external stakeholders, but it also leads to growth through giving you a much more in-depth knowledge and understanding of how the business works, whilst considering the budgeting and finance details required for short term and long term goals.

It is best implemented as a dynamic document, being reviewed regularly rather than remaining static and overlooked. Over the years, I have helped many of my clients and mentees achieve their business goals, and this all starts with developing a clear vision and business plan.

What one thing do you wish someone had told you when you started on your business journey?

To get yourself out there and go to networking events or try networking online. It is easy to forget in this digital age, the true value of connecting face to face. Networking helps you to create and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with other people who are like-minded individuals via career, industry, and location.

Networking successfully can help uplift your profile, meet new clients and develop your knowledge and understanding. This is something I would recommend keeping in mind for all startups.

Get yourself out there and go to networking events or try networking online. It is easy to forget in this digital age, the true value of connecting face to face. Networking helps you to create and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with other like-minded individuals via career, industry, and location.

How has the pandemic affected the market you operate in?

A lot of businesses have used this period to rebrand themselves, start new businesses or improve their digital presence and reach during this downtime. We have worked closely with our clients to ensure this period has been useful and productive for them in adjusting their campaigns and launches.


Personal growth

Did you study business or learn on the job?

I learned on the job. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, and whilst studying at university I sought out opportunities to work with clients in retail and entertainment.

This experience was essential, and meant I knew exactly what I wanted to do when graduating. Whilst working in industry, I saw that there was a gap in the market between design and tech solutions and saw that I could fill this with my passion for design and my background in tech.

What would make you a better leader?

Leading by example has always come naturally to me. However, to be a good leader, you do have to recognise that there is an opportunity to learn something new and develop every day. I like to take myself out of my comfort zone in order to continue learning and grow as an individual. Also, by listening carefully, whether it’s with a team member or client – you can communicate more effectively and improve decision making.

How are you helping other Entrepreneurs?

Over the years, I’ve seen entrepreneurs struggle to get free one-to-one advice and hands-on support for their branding needs. For startup businesses, budgets are usually tight and this means a lot of businesses have to cut corners and compromise on quality in order to get started.

This is why I set up free ‘branding support’ sessions online, for entrepreneurs anywhere in the UK and abroad who need access to this service. You can book your session here.

I also work as a mentor for the Prince’s Trust, helping young entrepreneurs on their journey to build, grow and succeed in their business ventures.

One business app and one personal app you can’t do without?

Business app – Slack
Personal app – WhatsApp

A business book or podcast that you think is great.

I would highly recommend ‘The Diary Of A CEO’ with Steven Bartlett. I found this podcast to be very inspirational because of his raw and engaging way of connecting with the audience. It bridges business knowledge, entrepreneurial advice, real life stories and how to overcome obstacles.

Finally, what’s the most important piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting a business?

This needs to be a two-part answer.

For your business:

Start by finding a gap/niche area in the market that needs to be filled. In order to ensure longevity and success, you need to create a business with a clear purpose. Your business should have a unique selling point to allow you to stand out from the crowd to be noticed, and deliver a solution that fixes an existing problem.

As an entrepreneur:

Get yourself a mentor. What better way to learn than to have someone who has been in your shoes to help guide and show you the way. Sometimes being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Get yourself a mentor. What better way to learn than to have someone who has been in your shoes to help guide and show you the way. Sometimes being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website.

Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Conde Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism.

Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

1 Comment

Leave a reply

We value your comments but kindly requests all posts are on topic, constructive and respectful. Please review our commenting policy.

  • Dr Catherine
    Delighted to have you as my brand manager and my mentee...
Back to Top