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Brand Spotlight: Emma-Jane Leeson of Johnny Magory Books

Clare Tully

Posted on March 23 2020

Brand Spotlight: Emma-Jane Leeson of Johnny Magory Books

We adore the Jonny Magory children's book series at Jackanory. It's a beautiful piece of nostalgia for us adults that strives to ignite a love of the outdoors and Irish wildlife in our children. We asked the amazing Emma-Jane Leeson, creator and author of the series, to take part in our Brand Spotlight series. 


Tell us about your brand

Johnny Magory reconnects families with Ireland's unique and beautiful wildlife and heritage.
Beginning with a series of books that encourage children to get outdoors into nature; the business is growing to include toys and clothing in its range. Online gaming is planned for 2021 with an animation series planned for 2023.
I (Emma-Jane) wrote the stories 16 years ago when I had my first daughter. They were based on the stories that my dad used to tell myself and my siblings when we were younger. All starting with the old Irish rhyme “Will I tell you a story about Johnny McGory!”. We believed he was a real person and couldn’t wait to re-enact his outdoor adventures in the morning.
I finally self-published my first book “Johnny Magory in the Magical Wild” 4 years ago for my 30th birthday (after a serious nudge from my mam!)

What inspired you to start your own brand?

It started accidently! I had only intended the book for my children but soon realised that lots of other people grew up with Johnny Magory! I continued self-publishing titles while working full time for some of Ireland’s biggest employers (Bord na Móna, The Central Bank of Ireland & Kerry Foods).
I took the jump and left Kerry Foods in March 2019 to officially launch the brand and scratch the itch of working for myself. I come from an entrepreneurial family so, although very scary, I was so excited to do it. I had received fantastic validation from the parents who had bought the books, that their child loved Johnny Magory and his sister Lily-May and that the stories were really encouraging children to get outdoors and have fun.


As a mum and small business owner, how do you balance work life and home life?

I’ve now got 3 kids so working and balancing home life was always a bit of a struggle although I never really felt guilty about not being around as much when I was in the corporate world because I knew I was working for them.
But I’ve now moved from having a life/work balance to a life/work blend which is essentially what all entrepreneur’s have.
Working for myself for nearly a year now has been incredible and a total lifestyle change. I grew up with my parents running their own business so I’m used to there never really being a divide between work and family. It all flows together and I love the blend. We all talk about Johnny Magory all the time (he’s one of the family really!)
Having my own office out the in the back garden is the best part though. My commute is literally 5 seconds but it’s a place free from distractions where I put the head down and get proper work done.

What are the highs and lows of working for yourself?

The biggest high is the fact that I’m around more for family life. Working for corporates for 10 years meant that I’d never actually done my daughters homework for 2 weeks straight ever before (I always took my holidays when she had holidays). Working for myself now means I dictate my calendar and have the luxury of choosing what I need to be around for. Also, having Elizabeth and Amanda join the team has been absolutely incredible. I would be lost without them and they have really and truly contributed so much to growing the business. The lows are few and far between thankfully. Money of course is always an issue but we’ve been extremely lucky to have the backing of Enterprise Ireland as a High Potential Start-Up which has been a game changer. My biggest challenge has been growing the personal confidence needed to grow a brand. It’s terrifying putting yourself out there... Terrifying!! Standing behind my own product and holding my head high about it took years. I used to be embarrassed when people spoke about my books but I’ve learned to look at it differently. I LOVE the fact that I get to contribute to a child’s upbringing in a little way and bring a little joy to them.

Tell us what's next for your brand

I’m really excited for our toys and clothing coming in 2020. The Johnny Magory Explorer Buddy is a plush toy that will be a child’s little Explorer Buddy. Small enough to fit in their pocket but big enough to snuggle at night. The parents will register their buddy online and we’ll give them regular emails on Irish heritage, wildlife and exploring ideas.
We’ll have Johnny Magory wellies for winter this year also.  
A new book will also be arriving in the next few months which I can’t wait to get my hands on.
Working now on moving to animation is very, very exciting! I always envisaged Johnny Magory being the Irish “Dora the Explorer”. My daughter used to sit at the table speaking Spanish and expecting iguana’s in the garden! So I can’t see why children across the globe can’t speak a cupla focail and expect a Red Squirrel, Pine Marten or Corncrake in their garden!


Incredible! You can find out more about Johnny Magory here, and follow Emma-Jane on Instagram here.


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