Start-up stories: The Prologue

Start-up stories: The Prologue

Luke Swann is an entrepreneur, educator, and writer who is aiming to revolutionize education and inspire children with his start-up The Prologue...

Tell us about your business, what does it do?

Children are born into a complex world they have very little control of. The Prologue is revolutionising the landscapes of education and society by truly empowering children, nurturing their well-being and guiding their thinking beyond – introducing a new era for children.

We provide children with the magical experience of being the hero in their own inspiring personalised story where take control of their destiny, followed by core educational resources and an innovative educational model that makes their dreams a reality.

Our community for children is the first to offer this all for free, as education should be, in our epic journey to make children the present and not just the future.

What did you do before you started this business?

After sixth form, I worked as an unqualified maths teacher and SEN supervisor at my old secondary and primary schools, respectively, before going to study Mathematics at The University of Cambridge, during which I continued to teach out of term.

After changing to Natural Sciences I transferred to The University of Bristol where I became a journalist and finished my degree in Experimental Psychology.

Following this, I quickly became a published children’s author, continued to write fiction for children along with educational material for teachers, volunteered at a refugee centre and began my first novel, which I continue to write.

What inspired you to start up?

I wanted to change the landscapes of education and society as a whole and thought I could have the greatest positive impact on children’s lives by doing things my own way – with full autonomy, innovation and a ceaseless passion!

How would you describe your business to a novice?

The Prologue creates books where children can be the hero in their own inspiring story. We are the first to give them away for free to read on computers and tablets.

Paperbacks will also be available and people have the chance to pay for one that goes to a child who has had a difficult start in life.

In addition to all of this, we are also giving schools and homes free educational resources, along a new educational model that shows teachers a different way for children to learn.

We do all of this to make children happier and have more control in their life. At The Prologue we know how tough being a parent or teacher can be, and we want to help.

Where do you get advice, support or help?

Self-reflection is an important way for me to consider my ideas and approaches, writing them down to read at other times. This provides a great source of self-help.

Additionally I get much help from extensive reading: fictional characters like Aloysha from Dostovevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov provide a brilliant moral guidance; and research in pedagogy, psychology, philosophy, literature, science and other areas aid me tremendously too.

I have just finished the three-month Sprint programme at Entrepreneurial Spark and have just been accepted on their six-month Enable programme where I will continue to receive great support from the community of entrepreneurs and the people who work at Entrepreneurial Spark. Similarly, I receive support from UnLtd as the winner of one of their awards.

I have consultants in various fields that are incredibly useful. Ruth Ibegbuna, the CEO of RECLAIM, voted as one of the top six influential female change-makers in the world by Virgin, offers great counsel on matters pertaining to social change and empowering young working class people.

Nick Chandley, a Philosophy for Children expert who works for our partner SAPERE, informs me on my educational approach and model. Stephen Chandler mentors me on more over-arching business areas. Paula Hubbard, the publishing director of Springboard Stories who published my first children’s book, provides consultation on issues in publishing and education.

Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?

I have barely had any access to finance so have had to be creative in order to successfully move The Prologue forward. Due to our giving nature, others have shown us similar acts of kindness.

For example, Little Apple, a digital marketing agency with clients such as Nike, Puma and Google, are producing two videos for us – a pitch video for our crowdfunding campaign and a short film based on one of the scenes from the story – for free, as they love our work.

Additionally, they have access to all schools across the company, journalists, celebrities for key endorsements and other important contacts, which they have kindly shared with us. Another example is with the web developer to produce our landing page.

The two awards we have won, with UnLtd and The Business Network, offered small grants of £500 and £100, respectively, which went towards our illustrator costs.

I have effectively utilised our large partners to market our product. The decision to do this was one of the best smaller ideas I’ve had for The Prologue due to its impact.

A crowdfunding campaign is due to commence in early November with a target of £10,000, which will be the first significant sum we have received. From then onwards, income will be generated through a freemium model (paperback book sales) and a buy-one-give-one model for paperbacks, in addition to donations. Further down the line we will look at sponsorship and merchandising, then investments later on still.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

There have been many great things that have occurred at The Prologue in such a short time but the shortlisting for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards for Innovation has brought the most publicity and success, introducing us to leading figures that are looking to collaborate with us. We hope that a win in this award next month will improve our impact on children.

How do you differentiate your business from others?

No businesses that have produced personalised stories have ever offered them for free, used them as educational tools or used them to improve literacy or tackle lack of diversity in children’s literature.

There are no publishing companies with the intent on significantly changing the landscapes of education and society; indeed, most organisations don’t have such great aims.

Our primary aims of improving children’s well-being, empowerment and higher-order thinking are not found in other businesses. More generally, The Prologue operates on an incredibly innovative and compassionate level that isn’t matched by other businesses in this field.

What’s it like to be your own boss?

Being my own boss is empowering and I would like to extend that autonomy to others, particularly children. I have always sought new solutions – whether in mathematics or with social issues – and I am better able to bring about the change in the world that I have desired for an incredibly long time. I have relished this role and absolutely love all that it brings: even the setbacks are learning experiences; even the huge workload is enjoyable. However, I work for children and so don’t consider myself to be my own boss when it comes to accountability: this drives me forward with extra gusto and fervour!

Where do you see your business in 5 years time?

The largest ever international community and movement of empowered children whose ideas are heard like they never have been before. The Prologue would have already started to open its own schools.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Go for it! There is an increasingly growing community that offers support, direction, funding and there are many friendly faces to guide you along the way on what will potentially be the most exciting and fulfilling journey of your life. We really aren’t alive for that long so if you want to bring an idea or dream to reality for the benefit of you and the rest of society, then DO IT, DO IT, DO IT!

Why did you enter the BQ Emerging Entrepreneur Awards?

I made an application for the BQ Emerging Entrepreneur Awards to use it as a platform to further highlight the great, pressing need to drastically improve the lives of children. By attaching the award’s name, prestige and the acclaim it will bring to this cause, we can go further in solving this huge issue.

What would it mean to you to win an award?

The only way to say how much this award would mean to me is to combine the knowledge of the great benefits a business can have from winning this award with my strongest passion and all of the emotive associations it has.

I care so much about the lives of our special young ones and I will do everything I can to make them as happy, meaningful and fulfilling as I possibly can.

The publicity and acclaim that winning this award brings would be an incredible testament to the importance of the work I carry out and, more importantly to me, an incredibly helpful hand in solving empowering children so that they are not just the future but the present too!