Monita Cheung was named New Business of the Year at the Royal Tunbridge Wells Business Awards a fortnight ago. Adam Hignett talks to her about how she came to be a winner
It was never Monita Cheung’s intention to work in interior design, but by ‘complete fluke’ her need for some work experience whilst at university led her down a career path that she has stayed on for the last nine years.
“I was studying Product Design at Middlesex University and in order to gain credits for my course I had to do some work experience,” she explained.
One of the only options available was working at the high-end bathroom company CP Hart at their flagship showroom in Waterloo, London.
But it soon became apparent that she had considerable talent in the field, which did not go unnoticed by her employers.
“I was initially only supposed to be there for eight weeks over the summer, but then they kept extending it,” she said. “Eventually I ended up staying for six years.”
During this time she won a number of design awards, was featured in several magazine articles and was managing a team of designers.
After a brief interlude working for a modern kitchen company called Krieder and offering freelance services, in 2014 Mrs Cheung took the decision to go into business for herself.
However, despite excelling in her field, setting up her own company has been a steep learning curve.
“It is extremely stressful and I have had to learn a lot of new things which I have never had to think about before, like building a website and branding.
“I am just lucky to have a husband who helps with my admin as I think I would really struggle otherwise, and as I only employ myself and work from home my overheads are very low.”
One of the main challenges has been dealing with the cyclical nature of the business. She said:
“When I first started, I was really busy. Then by November into Christmas time I had hardly any clients as it
was out of season.
“That was not a great time, so I was constantly hunting for projects and advertising.
“At one point I printed off several hundred leaflets and put them through the letter boxes of some of the more affluent households in town, and now I am very busy again.”
Despite moving to Tunbridge Wells three years ago, most of her clients are still based in London as there is a bigger demand for the sort of modern designs she specialises in.
However, Mrs Cheung is thrilled to have won her category at the inaugural Times of Tunbridge Wells business awards.
“It is such great brand awareness and PR. It feels really good to be recognised.”