What a time it is to be alive as a budding female entrepreneur… striving to open an independent bookstore… in a gentrifying community… while being a black millennial in America, 2016. I’ve reached such levels of consciousness and conflict in navigating these layered identities that I can’t help but feel… anointed. Either that or God has a great sense of humor. But I digress.
I’m asked all the time “how are you getting so much press [and other unlikely support]? You don’t even have a real business yet!” My friend, Alan Tanksley (who I affectionately call “Alan from the Get Down”), helped me grasp it myself. I accredit it to my being, my tenacity; bookstores being the social fabric of communities, all folded into these local social dynamics and current events–it’s just a good story–a call-to-action by nature. My ambitions have become greater than me as my mission continues to resonate with Bronxites, authors, artists, teachers–the marginalized. However unintended, I embrace the responsibility and I won’t let you guys down. There is no turning back now.
It’s been 2 weeks since I got through the final round of the business plan competition. It was far from pitch-perfect, but I’m so pleased with my performance and the engagement. Now we wait for the results on September 12th which is shaping up to be the best week ever! I’m finally going to meet my mentor, Nicole Sullivan, owner of BookBar in Denver, after 2 whole years since she took me under her wing. She offered me her plus-1 to see her accept Publisher’s Weekly’s “Star to Watch” award in New York. Coincidentally, it’s the same week as NYPL’s award ceremony; so I get to support her accomplishment and she gets to join my family in supporting mine (or comfort me if I don’t place, but I will).
After pitch day, I did 2 more more interviews, tended to my back (I got hurt rollerskating at a company function. So embarrassing.), caught up with my loved ones, and literally slept the rest of the week.
Back to business. Last week, I continued to work on securing a space (sorry, those exciting developments are secret for now) and got serious about my plans for raising start-up capital beyond my personal investment.
I started by studying other successful and failed bookstore crowdfunds and then interviewing the staff of Word Up Community Bookshop in Washington Heights. They’ve run two very successful campaigns, and their founder works full-time, which is an important perspective for me.
I also had a truly insightful meeting with one of my indie bookstore idols, Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, co-owner of Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. Tomorrow, I’m scheduled to meet with Andie Laties and his team at Bank Street Books; then next week, the queens behind The Queens Bookshop. They raised $60,000 this summer to open the second bookstore in their borough. #goals
What I appreciate most about indies uniting to help me is that I can ask them real sh*t.
Best practices are so helpful, but I’ve had enough tea, what I need right now is the juice… what would you do differently in your crowdfunding campaign? How much money did such & such cost? How much money are you paying out/taking home? What about in the beginning? Is your legal structure working out for you at tax time? Do you think crowdfunding for a for-profit business is tacky? Let’s talk about community lending. What was your experience transitioning out of your full-time job and into the store? How did you prepare financially? How do the demands of retail affect your family? Did I ask how much money that cost?
And they let me have it… raw & unfiltered. I am so grateful.
- I’m on the market for a bookstore manager. My one-person-army is getting old and inefficient; plus, there’s value in having this person be a part of the start-up journey. My ideal other half has bookstore experience, a love of the Bronx, and an entrepreneurial spirit (and stomach). If you’re interested or know someone who would be a good candidate, let’s talk, about the real sh*t.
- Masterminding my guerrilla marketing tactics and fundraising outreach plan, building a campaign team, identifying contributor rewards, and planning pre-opening events/pop-up shops.
- Mentally preparing for the competition award ceremony, the ensuing press, and planning how I’m going to apply the winnings (that I don’t know yet if I won, but I will win) most effectively to my start-up costs.
- Deciding on the future direction of this blog so I can offer you value, value, and more value.
As always, I thank you for tuning in to my bossy & bookish journey.