The Giglets Success Story

Posted on September 5, 2008 in Uncategorized



As young publishers, most of us are focussed on getting that elusive first job or climbing the career ladder – starting up a publishing company is a distant dream. But not for Giglets Ltd – a company whose first venture was to publish a book for Scottish school children, and is made up entirely of students. We talked to Managing Director Craig Johnstone to find out more.

How and when did you come up with the idea for Giglets Ltd and TamO’Haggis?
Tam O’Haggis was created in October 2006 when we were part of a Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) company in our 6th year at Loudoun Academy in Galston, East Ayrshire. We knew we did not want to be just another YES company but one that would do something original, which would have the potential to make a real difference in the local community. The Ayrshire area is very well known as ‘Burns Country’, where the famous poet Robert Burns was born and lived for many years. We considered many ideas such as tourist leaflets and that sort of thing.
One day we were in our 6th year common room and one of our 20 strong team (at the time) suggested that we create a children’s book. This at first was seen as a joke but once realising its full potential we decided to get working on it.
At that point our mission statement was: ‘Giglets challenged itself to create a product that would make Burns’ work more attractive and accessible to young children.’ As such Tam O’ Haggis was created – a children’s adaptation of arguably Burns’ most famous poem, Tam O’Shanter.
The book was released on the 21st of December 2006.  

What were the practical challenges of putting the book together? Was the
production process of publishing a book what you expected?

This is an interesting question as due to the fact that we were a YES company before becoming a Limited company, the process was not what may be perceived as the standard one. It was not until the 31st of August 2007 that we incorporated.
As I previously mentioned there was a time when we had 20 people in the company (YES) – now as a limited company there are 8 of us, 5 directors and 3 members, so once getting over our internal difficulties which were often due to immature members of the team and people not pulling their weight, we could really get started.
We always had the intention to sell the book to schools so we had to make sure that it would be suitable for such sales. It was difficult putting the whole thing together while sitting our higher and advanced higher at school which for many, myself included, would determine which university we would be attending. 
It must be noted at this stage we did not see the company going forward – it was simply a little project for school which we believed in! 
Getting the book printed was not too difficult. We got a great deal from a local printer who we had great contacts with, and got our first print of 1000 books for a fantastic £750.
The only problems we had at the time were about the formatting and design of the book, as to be quite honest it was a guessing game and we were lucky to have guessed right!
Things have changed and became more complicated since we have became a real company, but in honesty we did not know what to expect and in some ways, looking forward we still do not. We are learning every day and building an excellent network of advisories and we believe this will stand us in good stead.
Did any of you have aspirations to work in publishing before you came up
with Giglets? Would you consider it now as a future career?
No, none of us had any such aspirations. This is related to the fact that initially we did not think of this becoming a business for us.
At the moment we are all running this business as well as taking on our full-time university and college courses. I am studying International Business at The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and another member of the company, Fiona Morton, is studying medicine at Edinburgh University. Looking at it this way it would be more likely for it to be my career than Fiona’s, for example.
However, we have a great vision as far as Giglets goes and we have a million ideas that we could follow to reach the top of our game and/or diversify into other market sectors and industries. We will just have to make sure that we have the right ideas at the right time so that we can exploit these to their full potential. So yes, there is a great possibility for at least some of us in the company to make this our career once we have completed our education.
Our strap line for our business is ‘a small company with untold potential’ and let me just say that this small company has a lot more untold potential… so watch this space!

Why do you think are the key factors behind the success of thebook/company so far?

Undoubtedly having such an excellent team behind the product and the business is a huge factor in determining our success. We work very well as a team and we are all very good friends, which, yes, can be detrimental but in our experience it only adds to our effectiveness as a team!
Of course little Tam O’Haggis is essential to our success – we see the potential for a real brand to be developed around him. This is something that we will be focussing on heavily. Without this character our book would be just another Scottish children’s book.
Also we have created a read-along CD and an Interactive Whiteboard software package for the classroom, which was developed in conjunction with Edpax, a locally based educational software company.
Finally, our age! This has had an invaluable impact on our success. We have always said if a 30-year-old had developed this idea they would find it far more difficult to get the same media coverage and political support. In fact, we may never have had this interview. It is something that we can take advantage of but at the same time we can show society that not all young people are ‘wasters’ and that there are many young people out there who want to be successful and make a difference. 
How do you cope with running Giglets alongside being a full-time student?
This, at times, can be difficult, but we all know that we have a business to run. Also, if there is a deadline at university for someone then we recognise that and there is the odd occasion when things have to go on hold for a few days. We have certainly developed our skills in time management and prioritisation of commitments; it really is a balancing act!

Do you have any other books in the pipeline?
Of course – over the next 18 months we plan to release another 4 and at a push 5 titles at least.
Also more interactive whiteboard products will follow and we are also considering entering other industry sectors such as the food industry, and/or tackling some societal issues such as obesity.

What qualities, individually or as a team, do you feel you bring to thecompany, and are necessary in your experience of book publishing?

Collectively we are a very creative team and we are always looking at ways to develop our ideas and our plans for the future. Also we are all very different and that is very important as it means that people are always looking at things in different ways and therefore we can see things from every angle. My team often say that I am the driving force behind Giglets, possibly the entrepreneur working behind the scenes to develop the business and pull everything together.
We have writers, artists, an accountant, the business men, the salespersons, the marketers and the entrepreneur. Could we be in a better situation for the world of book publishing and beyond? I am sure time will tell! 

Giglets has been nominated for several national awards, includingYoung Enterprise and HSBC Unipreneurs – what do you think particularlycaptured the attention of the judging panels?
Well, as far as Young Enterprise goes we did win the Ayrshire awards and won some individual prises at the Scottish finals but did not win overall. Yes, we were very lucky to get into the top 20 of the HSBC Unipreneurs awards, we did not make the next stage but were ecstatic that we managed to beat hundred of companies from across the UK to get to that stage. Also we came second in the Scottish Educational Awards in 2007.
Currently we are applying for the very prestigious Chamber Awards with a 50K price tag on the first prize!
What grabbed the judges attention? Well I think the innovative way that we want to take Scottish history, culture and heritage to the young children of Scotland. Also our product can have great international appeal. In addition to this, the fact that young people recognise the importance of our country’s past and are actively working to take it to children in a fun and exciting way! Or possibly it was far simpler than this and they just liked Tam O’Haggis himself – maybe it is he who is the true salesman behind our product!

Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to start up their own
publishing company?

My advice would be that if you have a product that you believe in, and that you want to make work, then go for it. Also be aware that the publishing world is massive and if you can find a profitable niche like Giglets has, then you’re laughing.
Also, get out there and see what is around ­– it will give you some great ideas.
Hopefully in 5 or 10 years time I will be able to give much more comprehensive advice as we are still learning so much at the minute and I believe we do not know the half of it yet – but then that is what makes it all the more exciting!
Find out more about Giglets Ltd here.