A Man on a Mission – Meet Samuel Langley-Swain, Managing Director of Owlet Press Ltd.

Sam runs Owlet press, a small yet mighty publisher with a range of titles for 4 – 8 year olds and pre-teen literature. Owlet’s books focus on diversity and inclusion, from re-telling classic stories such as Cinderella to creating new titles that help children explore tough topics such as gender or grief.

Sam joined the Creative Futures incubator in September 2022, giving him access to 6 months of bespoke business support, a year’s membership with 1 Mill Street coworking space, and an extensive network of academic and industry contacts. Sam says: “Creative Futures helped me reach the next level of the business, both logistically, strategically and emotionally.”

Listen to our interview with Sam below…

You can also read the interview here…

What inspired you to set up your own business?

Well I have a background in marketing and strategy, so I had a pretty successful corporate career and everything changed when I adopted two children. I was really inspired by their journey and it sort of turned my world upside down, I was inspired by the challenges they’d faced in their previous journey, and when we looked for books – we couldn’t find any that had families like ours, so I set about changing that and creating new books for more children to see themselves in stories.

So adopted families, we’re a two dad family, and I realised that when we looked at children’s books there weren’t any different characters in books, there weren’t characters with two dads, there weren’t black characters, there weren’t disabled characters, everything was very similar – So there was a gap in the market that I sort of saw and decided to do some something about.

We’ve done books that are LGBTQ plus focused, we’ve done books about colourism and racism, and we’ve done books about finding unicorns and mermaids. So either the book centres around something that’s a theme of diversity, or it has incidental diversity within it, so whether we centre around it, or we include it, something has to show a child that doesn’t normally see themselves in a book, that they are there and they are valued.

How did Creative Futures support your business?

Well I think the other thing is, that with Creative Futures there’s a focus on wins and personally I’m very panicky, I’m very negative and I’m always focusing on the next thing, and actually being part of a cohort you focus on your wins. So a recent win for us is that we’ve just won a publishing award, we’ve often been shortlisted but we’ve been awarded a winning spot for an LGBT writing award called the Polari prize – it’s for our pitch book Nen and the Lonely Fisherman, and it’s been fantastic just to have the recognition on such an important book.

Well I think for me like many small businesses, you reach a critical point where you think – I’m not sure how I can continue in this way, as a one-man, or a few person business. You reach a point where you think I’m not sure how to reach the next stage, and for me Creative Futures was that platform that was supportive, that would help me reach the next level of the business, not necessarily expanding massively and turning into the biggest publisher in the country overnight, but to be able to take the next step with guidance and support, both logistically, strategically and emotionally as well, through other people in the cohort.

Having a workspace is one of the biggest advantages because quite often small business entrepreneurs work from home, so that’s a very different workspace you’re in, a different mindset, the practicalities of working from home are different to having a space where you’re surrounded by other people who are working.

I think having the face-to-face meetings is really beneficial, but just having somebody at the end of the line saying – I need help with accounting, I’m not sure how to access the grant, or is this the right thing I should be doing, or are there any experts in my local area? Those things are on-tap, and to be able to have those literally within an hour in some instances, is just really useful – it’s just like having an angel sitting above your business sometimes.

More about Creative Futures and how we can support your business here: https://warwickinnovationdistrict.com/creative-futures/