Michelle Charman in the lady behind the brand Forelock Books. Forelock Books publish a range of books for children, but the beauty is that all members of the family can enjoy the stories – they’re true family books! With some fabulous authors and great stories, Forelock Books is a really great brand to look into. And Michelle is completely lovely too. Here’s a bit more about her.
Tell us about you and your background. What made you want to start a business?
I grew up in Snowdonia during the 70’s/80’s. Everyone had a pony, or a bike. I had a bike for quite some time, until I’d driven my parents mad by ‘trotting’ everywhere and answering questions in ‘neighs and whinnies’. I never really learnt to ride, I was just told to hang on by my granddad, who used to be a jockey.
By the time I was about nine, my best friend and I were spending all our spare time riding over the Welsh mountains and along the beaches, dreaming up new adventures to go on, pretending to be highwaymen, princesses, cowgirls, show-jumpers and other equestrians.
My imagination, confidence and sense of adventure grew with my love of books, I was always being told off at school for ‘daydreaming’, wishing I was out riding.
I moved to London in 1990 to study Business Studies and Print Management and eventually got my first job with Hamlyn Books. I worked for various publishers over the next 20yrs including, Octopus, Dorling Kindersley, Penguin Books but by 2013 publishing had changed so much, many of the publishing brands we all know and love had merged together, publishing was big business and great stories were passed over for celebrity authors and fashionable topics.
I’ve always encouraged ways of getting more people reading, but for me, nothing beats a great story, whatever your age.
Realising that there were very few pony stories that would appeal to and inspire today’s young riders, being published in the UK. I decided to set up Forelock Books.
How is your business different? What makes your products special?
Publishers at Penguin Random House felt that equestrian fiction aimed at young riders was too niche, they wanted to appeal to a much broader market of children and young adults worldwide, whether they rode or not. I felt that there were enough riders and pony enthusiasts to warrant a brand of modern equestrian family fiction; Great stories, by the best authors, for the whole family.
I wanted to create a distinctive brand, I love physical books and still have my favourite hardback books I read as a child, some have inscriptions in them from family and friends who gave them to me as gifts. So many things these days are meant to be short lived, upgraded, thrown away, replaced, I wanted to create things that could be treasured.
If you had to sum up your business in a few words, what would they be?
Creator of Equestrian Dreams: Inspirational, Adventurous, Traditional, Reliable, Quality.
Do you have a motto or ethos?
Creating dreams for others to follow.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring business owner, what would it be?
Go with your gut, if you think too hard, you may never take that first step.
One thing that helps you run your business more effectively
Photoshop. It’s not cheap and I’m no expert, but it’s great for putting together interesting social media posts, memes and creating impactful images.
Best thing about running a business?
Good feedback. Just hearing that someone loved reading a story that I believed in makes all the hard work, expense and disappointment worthwhile.
Worst thing about running a business?
The quiet periods, where no money is coming in and you’re just not finding your market, or worse you’re finding your market, but failing to convince them how good your product is.
Top business blog you follow
Haynet and Sophie Callahan. I’ve only just been introduced to Sophie’s blog via Small & Supercharged and I’m amazed at how much time she spends putting together really useful supportive blogs without expecting something in return from the reader – however, I’m constantly impressed by her images, and I suppose when I need a photographer she will be at the top of my list.
Top business book you’ve read
Upping your Elvis Factor by Chris Barez Brown. I met him when I worked at Penguin and he was the person who convinced me to follow my dream.
One thing we might not know about you
I’d love to move back home to Wales. I’m on an amazing journey, but Snowdonia will always be HOME and it’s where I’ll return.
Top business achievement
Being ‘Highly Commended’ by BETA is something I’m very proud of but I consider every sale as my biggest achievement. Selling a book means that I have found the right story, produced it well, found the right market and convinced the buyer to part with money for the promise it holds and that to me is success.