Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in publication but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Molly Hurford, Owner of Strong Girl Publishing, located in Collingwood, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Strong Girl Publishing makes athletically-oriented books and content for middle-grade and young adult girls, written by young women athletes. We believe that visibility is key in keeping young girls interested in sports and movement as they reach the age where, unfortunately, girls tend to drop out of the sport entirely. Our mission is two-fold: We want to help girls see themselves in sports and outdoor adventure, inspiring them to try new activities by creating engaging stories around girls in sports. We are also creating a space for young women athletes who are looking for a platform to share their voices.
Tell us about yourself
I'm a longtime writer and journalist in the endurance sports space. Even with nine books published, I still heard that 'books about girls in sport don't sell.' After years of hearing that, but seeing the huge rise in girls' sports, I got a little angry. Not just for myself but for the young women I've met who want to write about sport and for the young girls who don't have books that show them who they can be. I've seen firsthand the power of a book to change a young girl's life. And as a former non-athlete who eventually developed a love of cycling and running, I know from personal experience how important it is to see yourself in sport if you're going to take part in it. Visibility matters, and I want to bring stories of girls crushing it in all sports to the world so that young girls and young women can see themselves in athletics and getting outside. Because I have a strong background in traditional and self-publishing, as well as experience with everything from writing a book to cover design to laying out the pages, I felt called to help other young women who have great ideas but don't have the time or the expertise to bring them to life. I also have my own books about girls in sports and felt like they could be a good base for the company to slowly find its audience while also bringing on new authors and developing their material. Seeing girls who are already reading books in my Shred Girls series (and hearing from their parents!) motivates me on a daily basis—it's so cool to know that I've made a difference in young girls' lives.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Signing my first author was a pretty big deal for me! It was the first moment of the business shifting from about myself and my books to being about us and our books.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
All of the behind-the-scenes legal and financial components—as a creative, I have definitely struggled to get this company started in the right way rather than the fast way... But I know that my long-term goals for Strong Girl Publishing are going to be easier to meet if we have everything properly set up from the word 'Go!'
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Sloooow down. This isn't the advice anyone (especially impatient types like myself!) wants to hear, but I do think when you're starting something, it's a good idea to let the idea ruminate for a bit to make sure it's not just a passing idea. Start a list of everything you can think of that you'd have to do to get the business up and running (check online for lists about starting a small business in your state or province and add everything from that list as well!). I've had a lot of ideas for businesses in the past, but most of them were largely based on the 'business fantasy' of picking out wall colors for a yoga studio or designing a logo. When you start thinking about meeting with the bank to open a business account or logging into the government portal to get a business number, it stops being about fantasy and becomes a reality. If that's still appealing to you, go for it!
- Practice your pitch on anyone and everyone. This has been huge for me. At a family gathering, someone asks you what's new. Use this as a chance to hone your spiel about your business. I usually hate talking about myself and what I'm doing, so this has been a big challenge for me. The only caveat? You can't do this without actually doing the work... it's tempting to shout from the rooftops when you're still in the planning stages, but make sure you're actually taking those boring action steps at the same time.
- Don't quit your day job if the business is risky. Publishing isn't an easy business, and even if Strong Girl Publishing does really well, it will be a couple of years before it's making enough to be my sole income stream. I'm lucky that I already worked remotely as a writer, so I can continue to write articles for other publications—and hopefully even use that to help with publicity!—because there's no way that I could go all-in on this (without taking a loan or funding, which I don't think the business is ready for just yet. Maybe someday!)
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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