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Case Study - Writing/Publishing /Product

Interviewee Name: W.G. Clark

Business Name: Elefanté Publications

Online or Offline business: Both

Products and/or Services Offered: Short Stories and associated merchandise

Website: www.jeffreyelefante.com


Can you tell me about your background and where you come from? Did you/do you still have a regular job?

I come from and still live in Sheffield, South Yorkshire in the United Kingdom.

Never had the desire to move away as I love the city, I love my home and I could never have coped with ever being too far away from family.

My education and 'career' wasn't really a smooth journey.  It certainly wasn't bad, just some wrong turns and uneven bumps in the road.

I was very studious at school, but as I went into A-levels and then onto University, I had become very bored of studying, especially subjects I really had very little interest in or passion about. 

Consequently, I dropped out of two Undergraduate Degrees and went on to work Full-Time. 

Thankfully I was good at what I did back then as I worked in retail and my personality lent itself towards delivering excellent customer service.

I worked at a couple of places over 8 years before I realised I had fallen out with the customer who was always right, my patience had worn thin, and my enjoyment and enthusiasm had waned for what I did.

My career change took me into Higher Education Administration, where I have been, in various roles, good and bad, for the past 10 years. 

I have worked my way up into an IT based role that I thoroughly enjoy, look forward to doing and get lost and immersed in.  In this time I also achieved a Masters Degree, which gave me some redemption for my failings at Undergraduate level. 

However, I know that my current role has a shelf-life.

As with most things in modern life, change is just constant, and the big changes coming toward my particular role means this exact role won't exist in 3 years time, which I've known for a couple of years now. 

This has meant that for a while now, in the back of my mind, I've had the question 'What’s next?'.

There is very little past this role that I would enjoy as much if I stayed in this sector and I've been feeling very aware of how it would feel to go from a role you are passionate about to something you may not enjoy as much.

What is the name of your business and can you describe what you do and who you do it for?

The official (as official as it can be at this stage) name of my company is Elefanté Publications. 

The initial pillar of what I do is write a series of small books/short stories called The Adventures of Jeffrey Elefanté. 

That is a very simple 'what', but before I have even sold my first book, I am having or have had other ideas about where to take this and what this can be. So far, I have written three 10000-word/50-page short stories and have started a fourth, with ideas for a further 12 more

I am also working on some novel length stories, re-working old classics, with the first in the pipeline of 'Jeffrey in Wonderland'.

As a start to building a customer/fan base I created an Instagram account (attached to a Facebook page and Twitter account), that I have grown over the past year to 1800+ Instagram followers and is a series of Jokes and Movie Posters and whatever other whimsical thing might seem appropriate.

The what and who in direct relation to the stories is a little more complex.

Nearly everyone who sees a picture of Jeff, instantly assumes that they are Children's books, which is not the case. 

These are intended to be whimsical stories for adults, kid's books for grown-ups. 

They are written by someone who has suffered from mental health issues, and has helped me through those issues, so there is also a side to it that these stories are for people who want to get away from the complexities and complications of grown-up life. 

They are there as a pick-me-up, knowing they will always be an easy read and will always avoid serious issues or anything that would bring someone down. 

I did this with an idea that it has helped me greatly, and maybe it could help someone else, whether that person is also suffering from a mental illness, or it is someone who has had a really bad day at work and wants some happy, innocent and light relief.

Why did you start your business?

I am in the very early stages so I'm not sure 'start' is the right word.

Preparing to start might be more accurate. 

There are quite a few reasons driving me forward

  • The prospect I could control my own work and career
  • The prospect I could make a living or career out of something I've created and am extremely passionate about
  • To share Jeff with the world
  • Offer something to the world that provides joy and brings smiles to people
  • To leave something behind when I am no longer here
  • The feeling I get when I am in the middle of the creative process

More recently I had some time off work and I took that time and spent it in cafes/bars during the day when it was quiet and no distractions and went to work. 

I was sat there thinking 'can this actually be a real job for someone?'. 

The answer was?

I believe it can, and it felt right, it felt like it's what I was supposed to be doing and questioning why did I not get here sooner?

Where did your idea come from?

Well, Jeff came from the deepest darkest jungle, stands at just under 7" tall and weighs in at a mighty 320grams.

In all seriousness, he is part of the family. 

His personality has grown over time and the creative/business side of it has (and is) gradually evolved over the past 6/7 years.

The reason the first book came to be written is that there were a lot of occasions on holiday or social events such as weddings, where we would get asked about children or pets.

We said no, we have a Jeff!

Bemused, they would all give us the same look as we told the story... However, as soon as the pictures were seen, everyone just seemed to get it. 

After telling the story of the first book many times, a few people had said 'you should write that as a story' and so I did.

All is explained in the first book so I won't spoil it here.

Who or what inspired you?

It depends on when this question applies really, and what it actually relates to. 

The easiest answer is in relation to who inspired me to take the next steps and put some serious thoughts and actions into moving these ideas towards something that could become a business and a career.

As these things often are, it was almost by chance this happened.

A friend of mine who used to work in Higher Education had left the sector and relocated to Lancashire with her husband.

He had recently retired from his profession as a physiotherapist and had gone back to creating Japanese inspired ceramic pieces that had exhibited during his pre-physio career.

His wife turned her hand to it and it quickly became apparent she too had a gift for ceramic work.

As their venture progressed they returned to Sheffield to do a pop-up shop to display and sell their work.

I have seen enough TV programmes and seen enough in the news to know we live in a world on entrepreneurs but when it's through the window of a television, there's such a disconnect to fully relate to them…

But here I was, seeing it first hand from someone I knew and loved and respected and admired, creating something beautiful, selling it and trying to forge a business and make a career out of it. 

And it is working for them and they are doing really well.

A complete sledgehammer of inspiration hit me!

Someone I know can do this, someone real!... I CAN DO THIS!

It was during the week after that things escalated as a starting point of hopefully building something and creating my own business.

It was small steps, but it is when I went back to writing (I was half way through the 3rd story), created the social media accounts, and started the research into book printing, publishing, costings, business plans and starting a small business.

What training or development did you undertake in order to start your business?

None.  I'm good at reading and researching what needs to be done, whilst remembering I don’t know that much – but that this is not meant to be an obstacle to starting something.  There are plenty of resources and help out there!

How do you make money now with your business?

Right now, I don't.  I have sold one book at £4.99, but I haven't taken things to market just yet.  I am still building up a customer base through social media, sorting out the merchandise, and want to write a couple more stories so I have plenty to start with before I officially go on sale.

How did you actually start your business, in 10 steps or less?

As I haven't officially started yet, here are the significant milestones that have led me to this point and my advice would be:

  1. Be passionate about something
  2. Create something from it
  3. Support and inspiration from others
  4. Devote time
  5. Take it seriously
  6. Believe
  7. Learn not to be affected by perceived constraints

For far too long a time I had thoughts in my head like 'I can't be a writer I've not done a course, I don’t have a degree.' Or 'Well I'm not and won't be published so I can't be a writer.' 

What I have come to learn, and has been extremely liberating is that you don’t need the things that people think you need to do something you want. 

You have to accept that it may never amount to anything more than a hobby or past-time but I am a writer, I'm a writer because I say so and if the idea ever stopped about making a business, career or life out of this, I will still be writing. 

On this note I mentioned to my partner once that when people ask what I do I'm not going to tell them about my IT job, I'm going to say I'm trying to become a writer.  My partner said, quite eloquently

No no, you don't tell people you are trying to become a writer, you tell them you are a writer.'

What obstacles did you face when you started your business and how did you overcome them?

Even though there are a lot of support and resources to access, knowing what you need to know and how to access this information can be a bit daunting. 

There is also the aspect of time.

Being in a full-time job that has its own stresses can be an obstacle itself into how much can be put into your own project.

Right now, I have a 3-year plan – and without putting some serious focus to it, I know full well in 3 years' time I will regret not doing more than I have.

What are some of the things you found most useful in getting your business off the ground and why? 

I am not good at receiving criticism for this work, but I can't stress enough how invaluable feedback from family and friends has been. 

It's not that I can't take criticism, I can.  It is just that what this centres around is deeply personal to me.  It is something I have created, love, am passionate about and is so close to me that I am extremely nervous for what other's comments might be – I am trying to not let that dissuade me from getting the feedback I need though – don't let it put you off either.

I also make use of friends who are in business, regardless of what kind it is to pick their brains on certain aspects.

Use the skills and knowledge of those who offer it to you.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking for an idea to start a business? How would you suggest they go about it?

If you have something you are passionate about start cultivating it now.

One of the things I commonly think, when I'm doing work on the Instagram account is, 'I wonder how big this would be if I had started 5 years ago?

As you cultivate your passion or idea, more ideas will come and what you might end up developing into a business might be a bit different to the initial idea

Is there anything else you would like to say that is not covered by the questions above?

Only to say that I am in a very lucky position, I have a job I really enjoy.  I'm not looking for fame or to make millions.

If I could get this to a place where I am earning the equivalent of what I am on now, I would be ecstatic.

However, if that never came to be and I stayed on my current career path, as long as I can get Jeff out there in some form, and make as many people smile as possible, then I will be happy I've left a positive mark on the world, whoever large or small.T

This, for the moment is very much a side-line, and however much more seriously I am taking things compared to 18 months ago, I recognise I will have to take it it a step further and devote a lot more time to it, but I guess, for now, I am just testing the water, seeing what works and what doesn't.

How can people find out more about you and your business?

My web address is www.jeffreyelefante.com

More specifically, elements of the first few questions can be read here, to do with the how and why this has come to behttps://jeffreyelefante.com/2016/12/11/a-word-from-the-author-and-the-genesis-of-jeff/

Instagram - @jeffreyelefante

Twitter - @jeffreyelefante

Zazzle Shophttps://www.zazzle.co.uk/jeffrey_elefante