Bright Red Publishing is a multi-award winning independent publishing company which develops and produces high quality Study Guides. They collaborated with Edinburgh Napier University to create a unique on-line Digital Zone to further support students and teachers during a time of immense educational change in Scotland.
To date, almost 45,000 pupils, parents and teachers have signed up to the Digital Zone.
Earlier this month, John MacPherson took part in a business-academic round table hosted by Interface at Edinburgh Napier University with businesses and academics, and Julia Page, Chief Executive Officer of veski, an Australian organisation which aims to foster an innovation economy.
Here, we ask John about the benefits for his business from collaborating with academics.
What inspired you to set up your own business?
I started in publishing with an independent Scottish publisher which was run by the founding owner. Within months he had sold up to a London-based firm and, during the next three years, the company was bought twice more (by London-based firms both times). During this time the team managed to do great things but we were continually disrupted by remote management who didn’t really understand the business and tended to distract us from our key mission – creating brilliant educational resources. The management team tried to buy the company twice (we were rejected both times) and we then decided to do our own thing. So, in short, I was inspired to set up my own business by a desire to take control of my destiny and be allowed to focus on the one thing I enjoyed the most about my job – developing materials that made a difference for students and teachers.
Where do you want to take the business – regional, Scotland-wide or global?
UK first and then global.
What was the issue/hurdle you wanted to overcome by working with academics?
I mostly wanted to bridge the skills and investment gap. Bright Red has great content and lots of good ideas but limited technical know-how and, alas, shallow pockets. Working with academia, especially given our educational publishing credentials, seemed like a perfect way forward.
What benefits did the collaboration bring to your business?
The key benefit from our collaboration with Professor Buchanan at Edinburgh Napier was the launch of a digital presence for Bright Red. It was that first step which made people realise that this small company could achieve great things. Other benefits include further recognition, winning awards, engaging with many more customers and laying the groundwork for future developments.
What gets you up on a Monday morning?
Authors to commission, proofs to check, books to publish, schools to visit – my role at Bright Red is incredibly rewarding and I am a lucky man for that. We are very close to our market – it is brilliant to be able to make the kind of impact we do, especially as a small, independent business.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I wanted to be a professional reader. Or maybe an architect. It depends how much younger!
If you could change the world, what would you do first?
The benevolent me would ask everyone to show a little more respect to each other and to the planet. The authoritarian in me would make reading books compulsory!