We’re interviewing the winners of the 2011 Mumpreneur Award, this week’s business mind is Kate Wilson from London, winner of this year’s Inspiration Award.
For any of our readers who aren’t aware of you, can you give us an intro to the business?
We’ve very new, so there’s no reason why your readers should be aware of us! We are a small, independent children’s publishing company, publishing books for children from babies to young teenagers and apps for iPads and other touch screen devices for children between the ages of two and around seven. We started publishing in January of this year. We’ve published books by new writers and illustrators, but also published books by people who are better known, like a series of books by Axel Scheffler, who is the illustrator of The Gruffalo.
Where can we find you, and why did you choose to set up shop where you did? - What attracted you to that area?
You can find us at 10A Lant Street, London, SE1 9QR. We’re just around the corner from Borough Market. We wanted a central London location, but we wanted to be careful with our money, and Southwark (and Lambeth where we were previously) both represented relatively good value for money. But it’s also a really vibrant area, with the food market happening at the end of every week and a really great mix of residential property, offices and retailers.
What inspired you to start your business?
I’ve worked in children’s publishing for most of my career – so for over two decades! But it took spending time away from children’s books (I worked briefly for an adult publishing company) to realise how much I loved creating really engaging reading experiences for children and to recognise how important children’s literacy and encouraging children to read was for me. I’d also got to the point where I felt that I had learned a huge amount from corporate companies, and was ready to be my own boss!
What’s your philosophy in a nutshell? What would you say makes you stand out from the crowd?
I think that we are really focussed on the child reader. When we decide to publish a book or an app, we try to have a really strong sense of who the eventual reader will be. Are they three years old or four years old? Are they a girl or a boy? Are they a keen reader or not such a keen reader? We publish, for example, a series of books called Mega Mash ups. These are books that are perfect for reluctant readers, mainly boys, of seven and older. They have short, action-packed, funny stories, and the reader is invited to complete the illustrations by drawing in the book, with suggestions of what to draw.
Can you explain how your business works and what differentiates it from your competitors’ in the industry?
We sell our print books to UK retailers from independent booksellers to big supermarkets. We also sell internationally. We have partnership arrangements with publishers in Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Candada so our books are available in those countries in English, and we sell our books to publishers in other countries so that they can translate them into their own languages. In the nine months since we’ve started publishing, we’ve sold rights to translate our books in 12 languages.
We sell our apps – and we’ve published two so far, Nosy Crow The Three Little Pigs and Nosy Crow Cinderella – through the iTunes stores throughout the world. They’ve received awards and been listed in “best apps” listings in publications like The Guardian and The New York Times.
We don’t sell directly to readers/readers’ parents ourselves, though you can link to Amazon and iTunes through our website.
One thing that I think that we do particularly well is engage with parents, retailers, authors and illustrators through social media. If you’re a small company, you can have a really distinctive, friendly voice that is properly authentic and sincere.
Do you have a signature product/speciality you could tell us about?
We publish lots of great books, but I think that the most unusual thing that we produce is our Cinderella app, which has only been out since the middle of September. It’s a reading experience for a child, but not exactly a book: there’s music and voice audio and lots of interactive animation. You can choose what dress Cinderella wears to the ball and what music she and the prince dance to; you can help her tidy up in the kitchen and find the things that the Fairy Godmother transforms into the coach, horses and coachmen; and you can even, if you have a phone or iPad with a front facing camera, appear in the mirrors throughout the app. You can find out about it on our website or watch the trailer.
What would you say is the secret to a successful independent business? What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your shoes?
- Do a really good financial plan. Ours was for our first three years. It helped us to identify how much money we’d need, and when we’d be squeezed for cash. Even though things haven’t turned out exactly as we planned (they never do!), having the plan to go back to has been something for us to measure ourselves against.
- If you’re not working on your own, surround yourself with people who complement you, temperamentally as well as in terms of their skills and knowledge. There are MANY things I am not good at, and it’s important for me to recognise them and to have people working with me who ARE good at those things.
- Make sure your family is supportive of you: don’t underestimate how much work it is and how absorbing it is to set up your own business. I am hugely reliant on the daily support of my husband, Adrian, and on the understanding of my two pre-teen children!
Can you share a few of your favourite local, independent businesses with us?
We haven’t been here long – just since September, so we are still exploring the area. Food is a big priority for us. Of course, we love all the stalls Borough Market, but on days that there isn’t a market, I am addicted to the takeaway mixed meze at Tas on Borough High Street and many of us are great fans of El Vergel on Webber Street. When we have important guests and we haven’t baked ourselves, we splash out at Konditor and Cook on Stoney Street. We love the Riverside Bookshop in Hays Galleria near London Bridge. We use Rymans on Borough High Street for stationery emergencies.
How did you hear about Mumpreneur & why did you enter the competition? Were you confident you’d win?
I went to the conference last year. Having worked in big companies, I felt that it would be useful to immerse myself in a different sort of atmosphere and a different sort of community. I entered the competition because I thought it would be great to win, of course! But I also thought that, just over a year after founding the company and a few months after our launch, it might be interesting to reflect on our journey: the questions make you think about your business from the outside, and that’s always a good thing to do! I think it is safe to say that is was absolutely astonished to win! Anyone who saw me bumble up to the stage, go a bit flushed and teary and fail to say anything that made sense would have a good idea of how surprised I was!
How does it feel to have won your Mumpreneur award?
It feels great! It was a great validation of the work of the staff and the authors, illustrators and other creative people who work for and with Nosy Crow. I am really grateful to Yell and DHL and to Intuit, who sponsored the specific award I won.
If you could give one piece of advice for anyone considering entering next year’s competition, what would it be?
Take time over the process, think about your business from the outside.
Finally, following the Mumpreneur win, what can we expect from you in 2011/2012? Anything our readers should be looking forward to?
More Nosy Crow books available in even more shops and more Nosy Crow apps: we’ll publish 23 books and four apps this year, and twice that many of each next year. And, to help people find out about them, more tweets, more blogs and more Facebook updates.
Congratulations to Kate and all of this year’s winners!
Yell are a proud sponsors of the Mumpreneur awards and we recommend the site to any parent looking for support with their business. Who knows, maybe next year you could be a winner too!