In 2018, Harkiran “Harky” Kalsi took a leap of faith, leaving the corporate world and starting her own small business in London. Following her love for graphic design, illustrating and lettering, Harky is now an artist with a growing impact. Growing up with an artistic mother, during childhood she was immersed in the arts, allowing her to freely express and explore her creativity.
Using her artistic skills to apply passion to purpose, she helps empower and uplift people, using words and designs to highlight injustices happening across the world. Her creative murals are loved by many, turning dull spaces into something more meaningful and inspiring. Businesses come to life through Harky’s work, she uses typography, photography, iconography and illustration to embody and visually communicate her client’s core values.
Pandemic Pressures and Panic
The impact of COVID-19 hit Harky’s business hard, resulting in the devastating loss of all of her clients. With all her projects cancelled, no foreseeable income and limited government support, it was a tough period to navigate alone as a business owner. Savings provided a lifeline for a few months while the impact of the pandemic slowly stabilised, allowing her clients time to adjust to the new way of working during the first UK lockdown.
Fight or Flight
As things settled, Harky’s next objective was to find clients through commission-based projects and leverage social media channels to grow her income. With many challenges to face, fear set in about the possibility of going back to a corporate job. But Harky’s entrepreneurial fighting spirit drove her to keep navigating the tough waters.
I knew my business was going to face some hardship in its lifetime, so this was it. This was my biggest test. If I couldn’t do this, then I shouldn’t be running a business at all.Harky Kalsi
Support along the uncertain road ahead would be paramount. Through following the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, on LinkedIn, Harky became aware of the free support services from the London Business Hub to help small businesses during COVID-19. This pivotal step greatly benefitted her business in the months to come.
Adviser Support Makes a Difference
Harky signed up for free one-to-one business support from the London Business Hub. Her adviser, Sheriff Alabi, helped Harky with direction, clarity and moral support.
From our very first call Sheriff helped me so much with navigating my business. My goals were all over the place and it was really overwhelming, especially with COVID-19 happening.Harky Kalsi
Working with an adviser helped Harky to gain momentum again. Sheriff helped Harky break down her objectives into ‘SMART’ goals and provided strategic guidance for marketing and lead generation. He highlighted financial support options such as the Government’s Bounce Back loan, future grant initiatives for SMEs, and introduced Harky to the free webinars from the COVID-19 Business Help Series.
Sheriff introduced Harky to other clients of his who could benefit from her services, which also began to open up new opportunities. Discussing her worries with a business adviser in a supportive, non-judgemental space gave Harky moral support and paved the way to forming and discussing ambitious future plans.
Having this belief has been so helpful during a time where l didn’t know what could happen to my business.Harky Kalsi
Resilience Leads to Results
Accessing support from the London Business Hub helped Harky restore structure, confidence and led to many new opportunities opening up for work. From April to June, the focus was on building, developing and planning. Harky signed up with a recruiter who helped to find a new client who brought in an initial few weeks of work, leading to ongoing bookings. In this time, she also remained proactive, searching job boards for any freelance work, which successfully opened a new opportunity to rebrand a charity’s identity.
With guidance from her adviser to remain patient, positive results began to show in July. Emphasis on marketing, including reaching out to LinkedIn connections, helped to spread awareness of Harky’s artistic skills and led to virtual workshop bookings, bringing joy to many during the tough pandemic months and second lockdown.
Through social media, she gained more clients, designed a logo and brand for a client’s new company, completed projects for Gilles Peterson and also for #Merky Books. By sharing her work online, Harky has been able to network and gain more bookings with people who share the same vision. During this time she also created some murals for a school and a restaurant who reached out after seeing her work.
These opportunities allowed Harky to continue making an income and helped keep the business going after what she initially feared might be the end when the pandemic initially hit.
The support I received was such an important factor of all this. It kept me level headed and focused on the bigger goal. I honestly could not have done it without this support. Knowing I have Sheriff to turn to has been such a blessing during such a traumatic and difficult time. I see my short, medium and long term goals and they give me hope to keep fighting through this. I can’t thank Sadiq Khan and Sheriff and the entire London Business Hub team enough.Harky Kalsi
Hope for the Future
After navigating the most challenging obstacles she ever faced as a business owner, Harky urges small business owners to seek support along the way. Free support from the London Business Hub was crucial in helping her thrive during uncertainty. She also emphasises the vital importance of having an online presence as a small businesses, making sure to utilise social media channels and building a strong brand identity as a ‘game-changer’ for businesses.
With hope restored on her journey as a business owner, she is now looking towards the future with ambitions to one day be represented by a global agent and illustrate for big brands across the world. Harky hopes to continue to produce purposeful work, with depth and meaning that continues to impact people across the world.
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