|Steve Emecz with Beniah, who is featured in The Happy Life Story|
You have described MX Publishing as a “social enterprise.” What does that mean?
We are a publisher whose main goal is to support several charitable goals. We used to use the term 'not-for-profit' but that doesn't really work for us as the more we grow, the more we can afford to do. We're staffed purely by volunteers. My wife Sharon and I both have day jobs and run MX in our 'spare' time.
What charities does MX support? Say a little about them.
We have two main charities. Happy Life Children's Home rescues abandoned babies from the streets of Nairobi in Kenya. My wife Sharon and I have spent the last five Christmases with the children of Happy Life - its the most wonderful few weeks of our year. In its first fifteen years it has saved the lives of over five hundred abandoned babies. In 2014 Sharon and I wrote a book about the project called The Happy Life Story. The second is Stepping Stones School, a school for children with learning disabilities, located at Undershaw, the former home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I'm a patron of the school. We also raise some funds for Help For Heroes and I am also a mentor for the United Nations WFP (World Food Program). MX enables all of these activities.
Are you willing to say how much you have been able to support these charities, in amounts of money?
It's tough to calculate, as so much of what we donate is our time and business skills, which all the organisations say is the most important thing. But we are probably sitting around $50,000 in pure donations across all the charities in the last decade.
When did MX transition from being a more conventional business?
It was sort of a social enterprise from the start. We began in 2006 with publishing NLP books for children with learning difficulties and very quickly (2008) got involved with Sherlock Holmes books and the campaign to save Undershaw from being demolished. In 2012, though, starting work with Happy Life took things to another level and enabled us to make a significant impact.
How does Kickstarter fit into your business plan?
Kickstarter is both a way fund projects that are financial challenging and a fantastic marketing tool. Some book projects have high up-front costs. This could be translation or, in the case of our large anthologies, getting copies of the books into the hands of all the contributors can run into thousands of dollars. The MX collection (of new Sherlock Holmes stories) is a great example. Authors kindly donate their stories to the collection so that the royalties can go to Stepping Stones. But to get a hardcover shipped to say forty contributors across the globe is costly. Kickstarter is perfect for that. Plus, the campaigns reach hundreds of new potential fans.
How many books has MX now published?
Across all genres more than 400, but for Sherlock Holmes we are at about 250.
How many authors?
About 250, and 120 for Sherlock.
What do you see as the future of MX Publishing?
We are almost exclusively Sherlock now. We'll continue to publish Sherlock Holmes books whilst there are still authors that want to write and fans that want the books. In around five years Sharon and I will be in our early fifties and we set that as a goal to exit from corporate life to work on 'social enterprise' projects full time. We are still on track for that and plan to dedicate more time to MX once we do that.