First steps

You see, bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power. The are, simply put, the best of places. – Jen Campbell, The Bookshop Book

Let’s be honest. Reinventing your life, from the ground up, can be a scary proposition. You may have a strong support system in place, and sufficient financial resources, but you’ll still need a plan, or at least a direction, as well as the courage to take a first step. Whether your first step is huge, resulting in an immediately life-changing 180-degree turn, or a smaller one that focuses on preparation for the future, each of us approaches the process from within the framework of our own skills, experience, and knowledge.

My first steps towards opening a small town bricks-and-mortar bookstore specializing in history began with Community Futures. I knew any kind of retail outlet in my location would be challenging because rural communities, in general, are in decline, and retail outlets everywhere are battling the rise of online shopping. However, I also knew that most specialty bookstores already had e-commerce sites that accounted for most of their sales. With this in mind, the first objective in my journey became to set up an online bookstore selling used, out-of-print, and collectible books.

Niche BookstoreCommunity Futures offered an introductory course on starting a small business. Sessions included webinars, seminars, and one-on-one sessions with a business development officer. As I progressed through each module, I was tasked with researching, and defining a particular aspect of my niche ‘bookstore.’ This involved a lot of time, and tough decision-making, but it was an incredibly productive exercise. Once I had defined my business, and identified the online platforms and tools I’d need, I had to learn the business of books: the terminology and how to catalogue, valuation and pricing, their history and culture, etc. This has been the best part.

Each one of us who ventures into new territory will need to educate themselves in some way, on at least one aspect of their project. Because I am the way I am, I chose to learn the basics of starting a business from a professional. I opted to operate online first because I’m comfortable with technology, and I could forge ahead with minimal start up costs. Books are one of my most favourite passions, and to learn the book business, I can’t just take a course. I will need to research, to read, to visit antiquarian book stores, to attend conferences, and book exhibitions, and to learn by doing. I feel like I’ve won the lottery!

~ Debbie MacLeod

The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference has been organized to showcase local heroes, individuals from within our own communities, who are creating their own path, leading by example, and following their dreams through purposeful work.

Intrigued? Come listen to the stories. Ask questions. Be inspired to change your life!

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