1 What's your company called?
Our company is a social enterprise called Pictures to Share C.I.C.
2 What do you publish?
We publish beautiful coffee table style books for people with mid to later stage dementia. When people have dementia they are eventually unable to understand traditional books or magazines, and they can become depressed and withdrawn. Our books are used to help improve quality of life and communication, in care homes, hospitals, individual homes, day centres—anywhere there are people who have dementia. They are also available to use free through virtually every public library in England through the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme
3 What's the story of the company?
I was an architect who retrained as an illustrator, and I started the company in 2005. I became aware of the lack of media for people with dementia when my own mother had the condition in the 1980s. As a social enterprise we were eligible for grant funding to get started, and received grants from a number of charitable trusts—but most significantly £150,000 from the Andrews Charitable Trust, which allowed us to grow our range of titles and become sustainable. We are a small organization with just two or three part-time employees, and we have recently outsourced a large part of our sales and distribution to others. I am retiring later this year after 11 years, and my colleagues are continuing the good work.
4 How's business?
We are very affected by the horrendous and growing lack of funding in the social care system, so care homes who should be one of our main customers have little money to spend on ‘extras’ like books. This is especially the case in the ‘corporate’ care home sector, where any profits are siphoned off by shareholders. Some charitable care home groups and public libraries continue to be very important to us, and we to them. We provide books that allow them to provide wonderful resources for their users who have no other suitable material available. Their enthusiasm and support for the work we do help to keep us going.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
We have questioned whether we should look for social investors to help us grow the business, but we know that there just isn’t the money in the dementia care world to provide even the small profits that social investors would need. We have seen others go down this route, and the pressure it puts on them to improve their profits detracts them from what should be their main purpose: to improve the lives of their users. We prefer to go our own way and not be answerable to people who may have different motivations to ourselves.
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
We are different to most other publishers in that we are only selling to a very small percentage of the population, albeit a fast growing one. We have always been, and will always be, outside of the mainstream publishing world. Therefore we don’t really understand what other publishers might feel are important issues.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
I assume that people just starting out in publishing are not looking to get rich! But if you have ideas for providing books that help a specific group in society, or have a desire to do something that has a socially beneficial aim, look at the benefits of being a social enterprise.
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
Belonging to the IPG throws open a window for us on the world of independent publishing that we are not really part of. It allows us to keep in touch with what is going on in this world and where we may or may not fit in.