'Huge risk' paying off for illustrator's publishing company
A HULL-based illustrator who put his house on the line to launch his own business is forecasting turnover of more than £1m this year.
Calvin Innes launched My Little Big Town (MLBT) at Hull University's Enterprise Centre in 2011.
The publishing company, which specialises in children's books, achieved a £70,000 turnover in its first year.
Calvin launched the business using profits from the illustrating venture he set up while studying in Lincoln – including the deposit on his house.
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The 29-year-old chief executive is now planning to release up to 15 titles over the next 12 months, taking on additional staff to help MLBT achieve its growth potential both at home and overseas.
He said: "I set up my illustrating business while studying TV and film design at The University of Lincoln.
"I was doing really well and working for some major clients, including Cadbury, Nestle, Sony, Girl Guides UK and London Zoo.
"But it got to the point where I was working all the hours I could and didn't have time to take any new clients on. I realised the only way for me to expand was basically to risk everything and set up my own publishing company.
"It was a huge risk at the time but the business is going from strength to strength.
MLBT published its first book, Gorgeous George and The Giant Geriatric Generator, in August 2011.
Calvin provided the illustration for the book, which was written by Scottish author Stuart Reid.
The book has since sold more than 12,000 copies and was one of the most popular children's books in Scotland last year.
Its sequel, Gorgeous George and the Zigzag Zit-faced Zombies, will be released in January and has already amassed more than 6,000 advance orders.
Calvin has so far illustrated all the books published by the company, and has written two titles himself.
Next year, MLBT will publish Pirates Don't Play Cricket, which has been co-authored by former New Zealand cricket international Iain O'Brien.
MLBT employs four people, including Calvin's brother, who develops the digital books.
The company is also selling overseas rights to its books and negotiating joint publishing deals with overseas publishers, and expects to increase staffing levels by 50 per cent in the coming months.
Speaking about projected turnover, Calvin said the £1m figure was "conservative", adding: "I would be disappointed if we don't do that.
"We are expanding into a lot of different countries this year.
"For the first 12 months, most of our sales came through schools and author appearances.
"Now we sell an equal amount through direct sales and wholesalers who supply retailers such as Waterstones."