Motorway journey sparks new business idea for mum

An idea to stave off boredom on a long journey led to a mum’s new business.  Here, Nicola Read tells how she established a publishing company.

An idea to stave off boredom on a long journey led to a mum’s new business.  Here, Nicola Read tells how she established a publishing company.

Nugget of an idea
Mum-of-one Nicola wanted to steer clear of too many gadgets when she and her family made a car journey from their home in Derby to their holiday apartment in north Devon.
Son Jack was two when she came up with the idea of an interactive book, ‘’fun to spot…on the motorway’’.
‘’This book is for all those parents who want to unplug their children from the DVD players and computerised, hand-held games in the car, get them to look out of the window and interact with their surroundings,’’ she says.
The book is aimed at children aged from two to 10 and is simple and easy to use – as you travel down the motorway on your journey, children can look out of the window and when they spot a picture of something in the book, mark one of the boxes in the grid below the picture.  There’s plenty of room for spotting multiple items.
‘’The children love trying to spot things in the book,’’ says Nicola, 43.  ‘’They get very excited about crossing off the items as they see them, and the whole family ends up joining in.’’

Turning her idea into a business opportunity
Nicola decided to set up a publishing company to produce the book when she realised its potential.  ‘’It kept Jack occupied and interested, and it proved such a hit with friends and family I realised there was a market for it,’’ she said. 
She worked primarily as an artist, specialising in oils and acrylics on canvas, and also carried out Reiki for a couple of hours a week.  But the art has taken a temporary backseat as she works on the set-up of her publishing company.  Her website,, was launched a few months ago.  She chose the name because her partner John’s surname is Brocklehurst – the name for a badger – and Nicola’s surname is Read, hence bullrush (reed).
The book is dedicated to Jack, now six, and more titles are in preparation.  Next is ‘’fun to spot…in the countryside’’ and after that she will produce ‘’fun to spot…in the town’’.

Setting up her business
Nicola’s previous job as a personal assistant to the managing director of a newspaper publishing company had given her some insight into the world of publishing.  Her job had incorporated aspects of marketing, public relations and advertising, but had also taught her how to be highly organised.
The biggest outlay was printing costs.  ‘’I was determined to support local industry and use a local printer, but I took a friend’s advice to interview several,’’ said Nicola. ‘’I’m glad I did because there was a difference of £2,000 in quotes.  We started off by working out how much it would cost to print and tried to think of everything we might need on top of that. We made sure we had a contingency fund for unexpected costs.’’
Part of the budget went on legal costs.  ‘’We sought legal advice because we didn’t know if you could print a picture of somebody’s product without their permission,’’ explains Nicola. ‘’It was important that we were covered before we started.’’
It has taken Nicola just under a year to pull the book together.  She had to approach many companies such as Eddie Stobart and the AA to get their permission to use their company images.  ‘’It has sometimes been a time-consuming and arduous process getting hold of the images and filling in all the paper work to prove that I wasn’t going to use companies’ photographs for any other purpose, but most people were very helpful.  In fact, everybody has been extremely supportive of the book.’’

From idea to product
Nicola confesses she had a ‘’bit of a wobble’’ before her final decision to go ahead with her venture.  She ordered 3,000 books.  ‘’I wanted to be very hands on with every step, but because of my naivety in the printing industry I learned there was lots and lots I didn’t know,’’ she said.
Nicola was very clear about what she wanted to book to look like.  ‘’We deliberately had the book spiral bound,’’ she said.  ‘’It lies flat by itself when open and means that little ones can manage holding a pen and writing at the same time.  Even toddlers can join in.’’
It can help with learning to write and counting.  ‘’In our research, we found that often a child will write a number in the grid rather than just making a mark or a cross,’’ says Nicola. ‘’It helped our son enjoy learning to write in sequential numbers.’’
Once the books had been printed, Nicola began a marketing push.  She made appointments and visited several independent local booksellers to persuade them to stock her book.  She also plans to sell the book to service stations around the country and will try to crack major mainstream book shops, such as Waterstone’s.
So far, Nicola’s book has sold 300 copies.  It sells for £6.99 plus £1.95 p&p and can be purchased from the publisher’s website.
‘’I’m so glad I went ahead and set up my own business,’’ says Nicola.  ‘’I’ve used some skills I already had, but I’ve also learned lots of new ones.’’


Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *