NAME: Hannah Russell
JOB TITLE: Young entrepreneur, author and owner of The Little Alf company
What made you decide to set up your business and become an author?
My story began when I was just 17 years old, when I brought Little Alf my miniature Shetland home to be a part of our family.
Little Alf stands at just 28 iches high due to him having dwarfism. Despite Little Alf being small his cheeky personality makes up for it.
Little Alf came to live with us in 2013 as his previous owner could no longer care for him due to him being so small. Little Alf had previously lived at a breeders yard and due to his dwarfism she couldn’t breed from him so I said I would take him on and we haven’t looked back since!
What happened next?
I got Alfie just before Christmas, he was the perfect Christmas treat and although this wasn’t the initial intention, that Christmas I also received a new modern camera a Nikon D3100, and knew I had the perfect model to try it out on! I began taking photos of Little Alf and posting them online and each time writing a small blog post about Little Alf. It wasn’t long before Alf was getting hundreds of likes and new followers and the response was quite overwhelming, he had turned into a tiny internet sensation in just a few short months.
How did the book series come about?
In 2014 I decided to write a book about Alfie. I had always loved English but never been very good at spelling but carried on and finished my first story about him. In 2014, my first children’s book was launched ‘The Magical Adventure of Little Alf – The discovery of the wild pony’ and it had a great response online. Through the Little Alf books I wanted to help support a charity so I chose the RDA – Riding for the Disabled Association, a percentage of the profit of each book goes to the RDA.
How has your company developed?
Little Alf now has 4 books published about him and his very own magazine and clothing range! Alfie is always creating mischief and even comes in to the house when my parent’s go on holiday!
Did you always want to be an author?
Nope! I wanted to be a vet when I grew up but I hate blood so it was never going to happen! I then wanted to work in a zoo with all the animals but I would have to study away from home and I didn’t want to leave my horses or pets as I can’t bear to be without them too long – I get really homesick and miss the ponies. I have always been a huge reader and writer but due to being a terrible speller I didn’t think I could actually be an author!
How did you go about getting a book deal?
Initially I was self published. I know nothing about the publishing industry and still don’t – I learn something new every week. I built up my platform with Alfie online and looked into getting my books into the high street stores such as WHSmith & Waterstones but it seemed like such a huge world, so I stuck to being a self-published author. Over a year later, after being self-published, I was approached by a literacy agency in London and Alf had a story published in ‘The Times’ newspaper.
Do you have any qualifications that have helped you in achieving your goals?
After finishing high school I started my A-levels studying B-Tech sport with the ambition to become a horse riding instructor/ outdoor instructor, but after finding out I had a rare irregularity in my back and realising A Levels weren’t for me, I left college after 9 months and started a path as a writer as well as part time modelling with an agency in London.
What other things do you do?
After discovering a buzz for business, I diverted my skills to Event Management and completed my qualifications in 2015. I now have an events management company set in the Yorkshire Dales which I run with a team of people to create events around the UK.
My latest business I am involved in is ‘Believe it Yorkshire’ – a business created with the aim to motivate, inspire and educate entrepreneurs and people wanting to start their own business. The company runs workshops, conference events and speaker days with entrepreneurs from around the globe. The company will be officially launched in 2017 where I will be telling my story and hosting workshops on behalf of Believe it Yorkshire.
I now spend my time jumping between business, book signings with Little Alf, running events and visiting schools to give talks on careers and entrepreneurship. If I’m not working, you will find me out riding my gypsy cob Paddy or caring for one of my 12 other pets!
What advice would you give someone who wants to do something similar to you?
Believe in yourself…! It’s something I didn’t do at the beginning when I first started my company. I had a lot of comments from people about my books who didn’t think it was going to work.
Luckily my parents are 100% supportive and always help out when they can. You have to believe in yourself and what you’re trying to achieve and eventually you will get there. I would also recommend researching what you’re going into and learn about the industry. I love horses and thought I knew the industry when I started, but actually I didn’t – I’ve learnt so much now about the equestrian world and the market my products work in. After all you do make mistakes, I make mistakes every month but they are learning curves and without them mistakes you wouldn’t be where you are today!
For more information on Hannah and Little Alf visit their website – www.littlealf.com