What inspired you to set up your own business?
My wife, Marie. Marie is Canadian and so we’d gone to Canada as it seemed more likely that I’d secure a spousal visa there than she could secure one here. However, the whole process took over 2.5 years and, in that time, I was prohibited from working, studying or volunteering. So, I started writing. I wrote The Christmas Present for our son, Gabriel. It was inspired by Ian Fleming who wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! for his son Caspar who had asked to read one of his novels. Understandably, given the adult content, Ian Fleming had refused. However, undeterred, Caspar asked his father to write a book for him.
The Christmas Present had a unique appeal, particularly to parents and grandparents who wanted a modern book that reflected the message, spirit and meaning of Christmas. So, we had the book fully illustrated and developed a Gift Box Set that included the hardback book and a customised snow globe.
Where do you want to take the business – regional, Scotland-wide or global?
The Christmas Present has already been a global success having reached #1 on Kindle in four continents in the first 6 weeks of its release. What we’re hoping to do is build upon this initial success through the introduction of physical merchandise. The Christmas Present has also been translated into French, German, Italian, and Spanish and is now available as an e-Book in these respective Kindle stores.
What was the issue you wanted to overcome by working with academics?
One of my previous roles was as an Assistant Contracts Manager at the University of Glasgow and so I’m fortunate enough to know and understand that academics offer something completely different to the commercial sector. In my experience, academics are more driven and motivated by ideas and innovation rather than by pure profit and it was these ideas that I wanted to explore, rather than simply explain what I wanted and have it delivered for a price. It only took two conversations with a couple of academics to prove that this decision was absolutely correct for my business. My thoughts were for an app and a game in the hope of raising the book’s profile but it was immediately pointed out to me that The Christmas Present is, by its very nature, a seasonal product. As such, any app or game would be one of the first deleted over the course of the year to save memory on devices. However, what we could do – and I never knew about until being told by the academics – is have the illustrations within the e-Book animated, which should be completed by January.
What benefits did the collaboration bring to your business?
To me, the benefits of the collaboration are numerous. The obvious benefit is that we now have another version of the book that offers something completely new, so providing a new revenue stream for the business. This can also be adapted to incorporate the translations at a later date and so be available to a new potential market of 255 million people. The fact that academia is also at the forefront with new and innovative technology is hugely appealing and I believe that I can offer a vehicle for academics to explore the possibilities of any such new developments in a commercial environment and let them see practical results in real time, with minimal risk to both parties.
What gets you up on a Monday morning?
The excitement of what the new week has to offer. The support we’ve had from Interface, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International and Business Gateway has been absolutely fantastic – I honestly cannot praise them highly enough. The incredible and brilliant people that work within each of these, have given the business such vision, enthusiasm, ideas, advice, guidance and help that would never have been possible through me alone.
What was your best Christmas present ever?
On Christmas Day last year, Marie told me that she was pregnant and we welcomed Gabriel’s brother Noah on September 2nd this year.