Sara Slack - Enterprise Inc

Sara Slack took part in the Enterprise Inc Programme and set up Inspired Quill, a social enterprise publishing house whose aim is to help writers to sell themselves effectively

Sara Slack is an MA English Studies graduate, took her love for literature further and made it into a business. After taking the Enterprise Inc Programme, she established Inspired Quill, a publishing house, which offers literacy promotion to the community, skills development to authors and quality publishing to readers, among others services.

The business runs as a social enterprise and focuses on indelible quality in upcoming publications from start to finish. Inspired Quill allows authors to both publish their work and hone personal skills such as marketing, web and commerce, with the added benefit of gaining knowledge of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ element of publishing.

Opening up a niche opportunity for new writing talent and the next generation of editors and agents, who seek for a space in the competitive sector.

Sara recognises that she has been able to progress the business through the support of the Enterprise Inc Programme and that Inspired Quill has drawn on the networks and resources to help build the business to what it is today. Talking with PULSE, Sara found the Enterprise Inc Programme gave her the framework and knowledge to start her business and she went on to say that:

“Enterprise Inc is absolutely amazing because it really gave me the confidence to make this into a business and do something I was passionate about [publishing]”.

About Inspired Quill

Sara Slack answered the following questions that could give you an insight for starting successful your own business:

What does your business do?

Inspired Quill (IQ for short), is a not-for-profit publishing house which strives to showcase new writing talent and to set new standards in economically friendly, people-orientated publishing. We publish both fiction and non-fiction books, which are then sold in places such as Waterstone’s and WH Smith.

What led you to start it up?

I was presented with the opportunity to do something with – as it was at the time – my book review blog, through the ‘Enterprise Inc’ which offered me intensive (and invaluable) business training alongside the MA in English I was doing at the time. I was tired of hearing horror stories from authors, and said to myself, “If I owned a publishing house, I’d do it better.” I decided to just put my time where my mouth was and actually DO something about it.

How big is the business?

It’s still very much in its growth stage. There are three ‘Management’ roles; myself, my Chief Editor Peter Stewart (who was also a student at UoL), and Photographer Fiona Lorne who’s based over in America. We also have a lot of amazing Interns who help us market our titles.

What are your aims?

Quite simply? To give the ‘Big 6’ a run for their money, and to develop a reputation of being one of the best independent publishing houses out there in terms of both quality and engagement. Of course, they’re long-term! Short-term, our aims are more simple: To get to the stage where we can actually employ a workforce (we’re all voluntary at the moment), and to get an actual office, instead of working from home. Our productivity will skyrocket, and the business will begin to snowball from there.

What challenges do you anticipate?

The biggest challenge we have faced thus far (and will continue to face) is simply manpower. As I mentioned previously, everyone who works with IQ does so on a voluntary basis – we all either have jobs (I work full-time as a Marketing Manager for the ethical investment platform ‘Ethex’), or are students (in the case of most of our interns). We’re all also on a huge learning curve, which is both a blessing and a curse in terms of being adaptable, but struggling to be taken seriously within the industry.

Who has helped you?

The main source of help I received was from the Enterprise Inc scheme at University. The business classes I received were – as I’ve said – invaluable. Another great source of (indirect) help, has also been my ‘day job’ at Ethex. Thankfully, I love what I do, and the overlap between the skills and development of the two businesses is – very luckily – huge. It’s also excellent that Ethex fits into the ‘Ethical’ and ‘not-for-profit’ categories, allowing me to get a much better handle on the 3rd sector in general.

Did you need training or new skills?

Yes, and the great thing is that a year later, I’m still very much learning. With the publishing industry, remaining stagnant and inflexible just leads you down the road to destruction. I still have a lot to learn, of course, but I have already managed to get a grasp on the fundamentals of running a business – some things just seemed to come very naturally, and other things (such as cash flow forecasting and other financial evils) have to be very much slaved over so I get them right.

How much did it cost to get going?

Surprisingly little – less than £5,000…but then again, that was just for the very basics. However, we’re now in a position where we’re stable enough that we want to expand, and for that my colleague Peter and I are actually in the process of number-crunching. It’ll be interesting (and probably a little frightening) to see the outcomes though! IQ will be actively looking for investors and/or grants in the near future so we can really get going! We simply didn’t want to run before we could walk. Organic growth is something we swear by.

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