Alumni

Alumni profile - Eleni Sophia

I had published my first poetry collection a year before starting my degree and I never knew how well it would do. By the middle of my first year, my collection, Good Morning to Goodnight, had reached number three on Amazon’s best-seller list and I had been tagged in a photo of my book with the caption, ‘the book that saved my life’. That was the clicking moment when I realised how many people I was actually helping.

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What influenced your decision to study English at Queen Mary? Did you already have a particular career path in mind? I always knew I wanted to be my own boss. When I started my degree, I wanted to run my own magazine that didn’t use photoshop because I wanted to encourage people to be comfortable in their own skin. I had published my first poetry collection a year before starting my degree and I never knew how well it would do. By the middle of my first year, my collection, Good Morning to Goodnight, had reached number three on Amazon’s best-seller list and I had been tagged in a photo of my book with the caption, ‘the book that saved my life’. That was the clicking moment when I realised how many people I was actually helping.

What modules did you enjoy learning about and was there anything that surprised you in your studies? We had a module at the end of my third year titled, ‘Poetry and the Media’ where we had the chance to analyse “Insta-poetry” (poetry shared on Instagram) and argue how it is a viable poetry platform. Analysing Insta-poetry isn’t something I’ve ever considered – especially as an Insta-poet myself, as I don’t really analyse what I’m writing, I just write; so, this was an interesting assignment.

While you were studying for your degree, you founded Perspective Press Global, a publishing firm specialising in works of poetry for those under the age of twenty. How did you decide to start your own business? When I was thirteen, I had written a novella, but I was constantly getting rejected by publishers. It was never to do with the quality of my work but because most publishing houses didn’t accept works from those under the age of twenty. I realised how much potential I had and that was when Perspective Press Global was born. 

I woke up one morning and my Instagram was going insane! I was super confused but then I saw a message saying, ‘Khloe Kardashian shared!’ I then saw one underneath saying, ‘I found this on Kourtney’s story and I’m in love.’ The Kardashians had shared my poem, Her Mindset – a poem about how a woman’s mindset will always outweigh her physical exterior. Pretty cool! Having grown the publishing firm, published four collections, had my work shared by the Kardashians, and signed three young authors, I am so excited that we can now expand into the magazine and become an umbrella company which is amazing!

How did your degree prepare you for starting your own business? Because of my degree I can proofread and do most of the editing just before books go through the publication process. This is amazing because money that would normally go into hiring an editor can be spent elsewhere in the business. As part of my degree, I chose to study a business modules which was open to those on all courses in our second year. It was a management module that really helped me understand the nature of different businesses and their structures. For example, how structures change when hiring people and the processes etc. This was really helpful, especially when hiring my first employee, as I already had the knowledge.

Can you describe your role within the business? What are your main responsibilities as founding CEO? There is so much responsibility, but I love it! Whether it be making sure the young authors get what they want and they’re happy with everything, or making sure employees get paid on time or even presenting myself well on social media because of my young audience. Responsibility is so broad as a CEO.

When did your interest in poetry first blossom? I never considered myself a poet. I started writing poetry after my first heartbreak when I was seventeen and I was just writing how I felt in the notes section in my phone. I remember thinking this could be helping so many other people, so I decided to publish my collection. It’s crazy how blessings can be found in a such a situation especially considering how far I’ve come in the past four years!

What are the benefits of a publishing company solely composed of young authors? I don’t know where to begin! Most books for children or teenagers are written by those significantly older than them. Not only are we encouraging the younger generation to read more as they’re likely to be interested in a book written by someone of a similar calibre, but we are giving them a chance to accelerate themselves too.

Most employers have a minimum experience rate and at Perspective Press Global, we give them that opportunity. Our sixteen-year-old writer from Albania, Sigi, applied to med-school and stating that she was published under an established firm helped significantly with her applications.

I often get asked during pitches, why do you think nobody has done this before and what if someone else enters the market? My response is always, I am the USP; even if somebody does decide to run a firm aimed at the younger generation, they’re not Perspective Press Global. As the Founder with my own brand, I have such a unique story that ties in perfectly with our ethos, it just makes sense that I am the current market leader. It’s so important to know your worth – especially in business.

Have you received submissions in response to any of the poetry you have published? For example, has anyone shared their experiences of heartbreak after reading of your experience? Absolutely! Writing is such a beautiful form of catharsis and its nice knowing they are healing whilst writing their pieces. I often receive messages from young women thanking me for my book This One’s for You which was a gift to them - teaching them about self-love and the importance of putting themselves first. I also leave spaces for them to write their thoughts too – which they privately share with me via Instagram.

You recently beat six other University of London entrepreneurs to win the 2020 University of London Gradventure competition. What was that experience like? How are you planning to spend the £8k prize money? I was the youngest person pitching and I won! It sounds cliché but it was such a relieving moment because I knew I wanted it more than anyone there. By this time next year, I will have at least six authors published under Perspective Press Global, so the funding will go towards helping them edit, print, design and market their work.

Who is your favorite poet and why? Not to be biased, but I would have to choose one of the three poets we currently have at Perspective Press Global. Their writing is so current and important. I’ll share a few of their writings below and I think it’ll be self-explanatory why they’re my favourites!

FOREVER

When your shoulders can’t hold

All the weight you need to carry

We will work it out together

When your eyes can’t hold

All the tears that are gathering

We will work it out together

When your mind is filled

With sadness, anger and grief

We will work it out together

And when your smile can’t seem to disappear

I will laugh with you

When your happiness is infinite

I will be happy for you

We will work it out together. Because even though you may not know it

We are forever

Sigi X (Age 16)

Giggles and Tears (Publisher: Perspective Press Global)

 

THRIVE IN YOUR SKIN

I will constantly

dazzle and shine in the darkness of my skin,

I will not allow the world’s disease called hatred

to cease my outpour and ode to my blackness and

villainise my rich dark, melanin,

hatred shall and will not be able to breathe,

in the celebration of the gold laced walls,

of my brothers and sisters' midnight skin.

Nathaniel Iews (Age 14)

Stardust and Butterflies (Publisher: Perspective Press Global)

What are your hopes for Perspective Press Global going forwards? By this time next year, we will have at least six authors published with us. As the CEO, I will also be publishing two poetry collections of my own. I’m currently in the process of writing a poetry collection for my male fans. We often see posts on social media downgrading men, and they deserve something that they can find solace in too, so I’m really excited for this one.

As a female writing poems for a male audience, what kind of research have you had to do to ensure your poems resonate with this audience? I’ve definitely had a lot of writers’ block! Really understanding and building a rapport with my male audience has been hard but I often post snippets on my social media pages solely to see their response. It’s been mostly organic research. You can find these on my Instagram.

Were there any academics that had a strong influence on shaping your time and studies at Queen Mary? Markman Ellis. Markman was my advisor and whenever I visited him for any essay tips or how to improve my grade, he would always ask how Perspective Press Global was going and was my most encouraging teacher. He was very supportive in my journey as a student entrepreneur and I’m so grateful.

What was special about your time at Queen Mary? Can you give one or two examples of your most memorable moments? I remember volunteering for Welcome Week in my second year. I met so many incredible people and they introduced me to Bubble Tea!

I actually met my boyfriend outside Mucci’s back in January 2019. Since then, we have started a business for long-distance couples and written our own poetry collection entitled, From Ours to Yours, where we talk about interfaith, long-distance relationships and how love always wins. Our Instagram page is @EverythingLongDistance and we sell rose quartz homeware diffusers. Rose Quartz is a crystal that enhances love – whether that be self-love or love in relationships. Each diffuser comes with an essential oil so both partners can have the same scent in their home – no matter where they are in the world!

Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates interested in starting their own business? Please take advantage of the opportunities and services the Queen Mary Enterprise team has to offer. Whether it be Q-Accelerator, Q-Incubator, or Q-Hack, there are so many options! I would often go to events alone, and I know this can be daunting and scary, but please take these opportunities because you never know who you may meet. I barely spent any time with people on my own course because I was doing work with the enterprise department, but that definitely paid off in the end. I remember going to an enterprise appointment and I was told I would be a good fit for Q-Accelerator. I spent two weeks of my summer last year, (when Perspective Press Global was just an idea) devoting time to my business and I also pitched for the first time. Since then, I have won the grow-it award and won Gradventure! It’s amazing how much success can come from saying yes to one opportunity.

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey. If you would like to get in touch with Eleni or engage her in your work, please contact Nathalie at n.grey@qmul.ac.uk.