With it being National Storytelling Week, we took the opportunity to chat to author and entrepreneur, Luke Swann, about his newly published interactive children’s book. As director of The Prologue Publications, Luke aims to provide a community for children in which they can feel empowered in this modern age.
How did web technology play a part in your business idea?
It’s played a large part really for a publisher because the story, The Secret Book of I, is a personalised story and can be customised. I don’t want anyone in the Prologue to have to manually enter all the child’s details. We want the user to be able to go on to the website, type in the child’s name, gender, best friends, parent or guardian and where they’re from which automatically go into the relevant parts of the book. This then generates a unique PDF which can be converted to an ebook and that can be sent out to the printer to go directly to the customer.
“I don’t want myself or anyone else in the Prologue to have to manually enter all the child’s details. These need to automatically go into the relevant parts of the book.”
The story is told through the eyes of a child who feels that they don’t fit in with anyone else and has ideas that people shun for being different. How does this relate to your life as an entrepreneur? One of the reasons that I went with a child having this really great journey and all these barriers to overcome is because that’s how I feel it is in society with children. So I wanted to do a really empowering story for children which had these ideas and it relates to all of us in life, especially as an entrepreneur.
“I didn’t have any business or legal or finance experience and yet I created a business which became a social enterprise.”
I didn’t have any business, legal or finance experience and yet I created a business which became a social enterprise so it could be seen that I’m pitted against people with a lot more experience than me. Being an entrepreneur has had its challenges and like the child in the story this is something that inevitably we all have to overcome if we want to get to our desired outcome. Have you received criticism from other people telling you that you can’t do what you want because it’s not a traditional career job? If so how did you manage to get past this barrier and not let it stop you from following your passion? I faced a lot of criticism when it came to exploring lots of different business ideas. People told me that I couldn’t do them all at once. So for me it was important to listen to their advice in refining what I’m doing and just take on board not as many tasks as I had before. Nothing will ever stop me from doing what I want. But the criticism that I have faced I’ve taken on board to a certain degree. I’ve respected the values of other people but at the same time I’m not going to listen to anyone when it comes to me achieving my dreams. There is one part of the book where the character is in a black and white classroom where everything is taught to be either right or wrong. Do you think this is true for learning systems and the way that young people are taught today? Definitely yes, I included the black and white room as a critique for many parts of our education system. I feel that information is conveyed in a top-down manner from an authoritative teacher to the passive pupil and they’re just expected to retain knowledge and certain facts. In the black and white room when all the colour from the child’s body and clothes fade to nothing, all the hope and excitement that the child had went suddenly. And they’re in this really confined environment where they’re told to obey and everything is right or wrong, good or bad and all or nothing.
“If you look at jobs now…there’s never a clear yes or no, this is the right answer and this is the wrong answer.”
I don’t think it’s a good representation of how the world really is. If you look at jobs now there’s never a clear yes or no, this is the right answer and this is the wrong answer. How do you think young people can break free of these restraints when they’re told what they should be doing instead of what they want to do? I think sharing your ideas with people is a really great thing. You can then receive constructive criticism or they can give you some support about what you’re doing. And the more people that you tell the more you can receive. When I hear other people talk about other things they’re passionate about, you can see the energy that comes out with them. It’s really inspiring to see!
“When you share that idea with someone it’s out there then and not trapped in your head, which you have to break past to get it out into the real world.”
To a parent or guardian who have good intentions, they will want to keep you safe. It’s good to appreciate the people who hold us back because sometimes they hold us back through good intentions and I think it’s nice to acknowledge this and thank them for that but to say “That just isn’t right for me, this is my life and I want to do this.” You can look for business accelerators in the area that you’re in and apply to these. These are, a lot of the time free and for people in your position who just have an idea, which is really useful for people who don’t have much money. I’ve read that in the future you’re planning on opening your own school following your values and aims. How would it differ to other schools? I can’t wait to open schools, I’m really excited about that! It’s something that’s quite far in the future, I think 5 – 10 years is possible. I’d want the education to have a child-lead component. I’d give them an opportunity to explore the idea themselves first to see what’s important to them and to express their ideas and back up their arguments and agree with people with different mindsets and beliefs. There would be a research-led component. This would be more collaborative, it would be more of a dialogue between the teacher and the student rather than a one way conversation. Then there would be an active component where they could take the ideas that they’ve learnt and apply it to the real world. This will show them there is a very tangible purpose and it enables them to have an active part in their community, to make a change. I want to have connections with schools all around and give them a platform where they can share their ideas and practices via children who work as ambassadors for their schools. This would be relayed up to children who are democratically elected onto The Prologue’s board of directors. What advice can you give to entrepreneurs who have an idea but are scared to pursue it? When you’re making the initial decision it doesn’t have to be a case of “I’m going to be working 50 hours a week on my business with no money”. Just bare in mind what situation you’re in, how much time you can realistically dedicate because whatever you think, you do have time to dedicate to it. Even if it’s just a small leap at first to do what you want to do, that can help you get over that fear of failure and what other people want for you. It enables you to bear in mind what’s really important for you. You can pre-order your bespoke copy of The Secret Book of I, along with community packs and updates by joining the community.