Let’s start with an introduction!
My name is J Allan Longshadow and I am the founder of Wordworx. We are a creative writing studio & publishing house. We specialise in one thing, making, words, work.
We always start with the difficult questions, what was the first album or single you ever bought?
Well you have to remember I was born in 1983! I think the first album I ever bought was the Robert Miles album which had the song Children on it. It was a great album but it was essentially 12 remixes of the same track!
After you left school did you know that you wanted to be self employed?
We’re actually going to have to take a step back because I actually started my first company while I was at school. I was fifteen years old and believe it or not I was selling balloons. I had a friend who did balloon modelling and I realised that I was able to get wholesale balloons and realised that I could create arrangements for parties so I set up this amazing business and before I knew it I was making stupid money at the time!
Eventually the balloons went by the wayside but I took everything that I learned from that experience and brought that knowledge to the Young Enterprise Programme at school and our company actually turned a profit. I thought that was a great programme because you had to actually apply skills like going to a bank , present a business plan and secure a loan.
Through that process I also became well acquainted with the bank manager and after leaving school I had an idea about what I wanted to do for my own business. I reconnected with that bank manager and I was able to secure some lending and support to get my idea off the ground and I have been doing it ever since.
I always knew I wanted to be self employed because I loved the sense of adventure but also when you’re young there is also ego involved!
Tell me a bit about that first year of self employment
The first year was very much an early version of what Wordworx is today. Within my family there are a lot of artists everything from poets to painters and even back then my vision was to be able to create a platform by which that could all be published in a printed format which is how it all began.
It was also very rough. I didn’t realise how complex the process of publishing projects can be, especially when working with other parties. Learning how to bring a lot of different people together was a big step. There was also the massive learning curve surrounding financials and how to manage financials.
What were some of the biggest changes after that first year?
As my journey continued I started to meet a lot of new people, one of which was a lady and that lead to me wrapping up the business in the UK and going to go and live in Poland. So for 10 years I found myself running an English language publishing house and school, which was really not something that I had planned!
At the time of this interview you and your business are based in the UK, what was the plan when you came back?
It was interesting when I came back because I had 10 years of experience working in the classroom. I knew that I wanted to continue to work in publishing but also carry on the teaching and by complete coincidence I got a job working for a Welsh Government programme and spent the next 3 years teaching literacy as part of an essential skills programme which moved me into a more coaching and mentoring role.
When that project came to an end, I had invested time and money into achieving qualifications for coaching and I realised that I could combine publishing with coaching. So rather than the relationship being purely commercial, you pay me money and I publish your book, instead I work with the individual each step of the way developing the idea.
Tell me a bit about how The Wrexham Enterprise Hub factors into your journey
After leaving my role in adult education I spent the next few years sat at the kitchen table working from home and that started to get inconvenient. At the same time I didn’t need a giant office of my own so I started looking for coworking in Wrexham and saw that the Welsh Government had space available, so I gave the number a call and the next day I was sat across a table from you!
The immediate benefit of joining was finally having space to breathe, running a business in a family household can get very claustrophobic and it also meant that I had to chance to work alongside other people and bounce ideas around and ultimately forming friendships has been invaluable.
Is it difficult for you to maintain the balance between creativity & entrepreneurship?
It is difficult because you have to keep the financial hat on but creativity isn’t there to make us money. So I have to recognise when there is a fantastic creative product that also has the potential to make money if it is put in front of the right kind of people.
You’ve run curated exhibitions, hosted charity events, storytelling competitions, performed poetry at local events and so much more all while running a business and being a parent, how do you manage to find the time?
Well I work 25 hours out of every day. The key thing is that it’s giving back, I’ve always had the feeling that if you want to be part of a creative community than you also have to be a part of it in however many ways that you can. Despite it taking a lot of my time at it’s core there’s a consistent theme to everything so it never feels like I am being pulled in a million different directions.
Tell me a bit about what Wordworx has done so far
I actually have some numbers!
So since May last year Wordworx has published 8 books in print, launched 3 electronic magazines with 15 more titles currently in production. In top of that we have hosted 10 literary events in North Wales, as well running 4 workshops and a literary programme for schools in Wales and since 2020 alone we have produced over a million and a half words of content. We’ve hosted 3 mixed media exhibitions and provided over 100 hours of English language teaching for EU nationals.
That’s a pretty extensive list and doesn’t seem like it would leave you with much time but you’re currently working on a brand new project called Motiv8.me, what’s this project all about?
It’s one of our electronic magazines and it is about coaching and positivity which is based on my personal interests but over the last few months it has become holistic by it’s nature based on what the audience are telling me they want. Since it launched in December it has grown exponentially to the point where we are close to reaching a million people, it’s actually bigger than Wordworx right now!
The basic motto is to inspire, inform and transform the readers.
Are there any misconceptions that people have about the publishing industry?
I think the main thing goes back to the fact that we live in an age where everything is relatively easy. You can go online, write and publish your own book and there is every chance that could in fact become a best selling author. However the process you go through to meet industry standards and create a book that will be recognised as such, I don’t think people realise how complicated that entire process can actually be.
It’s all the technical parts like designing book covers, your ISBN number, choosing your type face. I think in one sense it’s actually easy to write a book but it’s selling a book that is really difficult, I don’t think people realise how much a publisher actually does.
At the time of this interview we are still very much locked down due to coronavirus but looking ahead for the rest of the year and 2021, what are your hopes for your projects going forward?
Well I don’t see us being able to do physical events for the duration of this year so at the moment a lot of my focus is on building an online academy which is bringing together a lot of what I have been doing through the coaching into a structured e-learning package.
I’m also looking at getting new titles under Motiv8. Me which can be transformative for people and create a niche for us as we move forward.
Lastly, Hollywood is making the Allan Longshadow life story movie, who plays you?
I actually enjoy being on the stage so I would like to play myself….but I guess if it can’t be me, I would like it to be Ralph Fiennes but I would rather it be me!
If you want to keep an eye on Allan’s various projects over the next year you can check out his websites and socials!