In this interview post I interview Sara Slack, founder of Inspired Quill.
With an Entrepreneurial award and Business tuition, Sara decided that the best way to utilise her passion for the written word was to create a Social Enterprise, with the determination to not only publish and promote great literature…but to aid both new authors and the local community in skills development.
Sara Slack has taken Inspired Quill from a rarely-viewed blog to a registered, viable business in the space of a year and a half…so who knows what the future will bring. The ‘big 6’ had better watch out!
Faizan: When did you come up with the idea of IQ, how did the idea come about – what were the motives, incidents, thoughts behind your idea?
Sara: Inspired Quill actually started off as a book review blog.
I was a University undergrad studying English, and simply wanted somewhere to post reviews and thoughts about the books I was reading. After some time, I asked a few friends at Uni to also write for the blog, and started updating three times a week. After applying for the Enterprise Inc award (for young entrepreneurs) at the start of my MA, my idea for offering paid content developed. By the end of the course IQ had turned from just a blog into a publishing house.
Faizan: How did you go about executing your idea? Did you manage university and work for IQ at the same time?
Sara: As I said, I managed to get onto the Enteprise Inc programme, which offered 40 hours of (intensive) Business training. (I will never forget waking up at 8am on a Saturday morning to sit through 5 hours of Finance). It was a lot of hard work, trying to sort out IQ and my MA work at the same time. On top of that, I was also the Vice-President of my University’s Theatre Group, and performed on-stage during the year. The execution of IQ took a lot of planning, many documents of which are simply unrequired now, since the business has moved on so much. To be honest, it was arguably easier for me back then to what it is now – since now I’m working a full time ‘day job’ (which I love), then having to go home and essentially start my working day all over again. No completely free weekends for me! But I am incredibly fortunate to love what I do, so it doesn’t seem too much like ‘work’.
Faizan: Who funded your idea and did you approach many? Considering you were at university, did your uni help you with your idea?
Sara: The Enterprise Inc scheme at University gave me a bursary of just over two thousand pounds. As you can imagine, setting up a publishing house cost a lot more than that! I haven’t applied for any other funding thus far, and have been using my own money. IQ is, however, now getting to the stage where we need a better amount of working capital so that we can really hike up the quality of our products, so I shall be looking around for funding in the near future. I can honestly say that IQ would not exist if it weren’t for my University. The Enterprise Inc scheme was fundamental in giving me the knowledge I needed to feel confident about setting up my own business. In fact, I would have traded the financial gain for more intensive business training!
Faizan: What do you think of Universities at the moment? Are they encouraging entrepreneurs or are students being put off by their academic burden? Do you think students are any interested in actually realising any idea they have while at uni?
Sara: I think University is a place where you get as much out of it as you put in. No-one is going to hand you anything on a silver platter, which is exactly what separates entrepreneurs from people who just want to ‘have a go’. The University of Leicester was extremely central to the development of IQ – but I had to ask for help. I had to apply for the Enterprise Inc scheme, and go to meetings with the career development team. Having said that, I think a lot of students – certainly true amongst a lot of my friends – don’t really know what it is they really want to do after University, and I think that more could be done to reach out to these people and really get them pointed in the right direction.
Faizan: Finally, you take on interns for IQ, how can other students get involved and are you looking at expanding IQ to spot more budding writers? How can one approach you and when do you think one should realise they have the potential to write and be published.
Sara: At the moment, we’re not looking for any more interns. We are however, starting to look for a few regular writers for the IQ blog – which will be starting up again within the next couple of months. People can get involved with us simply by sending me an email and telling me exactly what sort of thing they’d like to write about (as long as it’s literature related!)
Writing and publishing is incredibly difficult. As cliché as it is, everyone has the potential to write and publish…but I think a big part of that mind-set is in knowing that you will always be learning.
Faizan: Thank you for the interview, Sara. We wish you best of luck with Inspired Quill.