Despite what you might have heard about bookstore closures due to the growth of online retailers, independent bookstores are seeing a rise in popularity again as people come to appreciate the sense of community a bookstore brings. Opening an independent bookstore can be a profitable passion project if you make use of the fresh, creative business models that are currently succeeding and breathing life into communities throughout the U.S.
What Type of Bookstore
There are as many different types of bookstores as there are literature-loving hopefuls who dream of one day owning them. You can carry a general variety of titles, titles geared toward children or titles solely on a single topic such as holistic and alternative practices. Bookstores that sell goods other than books can get more foot traffic through the door; however, don't stray too far away from your original vision. Many successful independent bookstores will have small cafes where patrons can purchase pastries and coffee while browsing the selection of books. This may be an avenue you decide to explore, but you do want to avoid being kitschy, while offering real substance to the community.
Location and the Community
Hosting community events such as spoken word evenings, book signings, writing classes, book clubs and story time for families with small children is an excellent way to endear yourself to the community. Think about the location of your bookstore and what sort of community it will serve. Does the area boast sidewalk cafes, artists and other creative people, or farmers markets? Then you probably have an area that can support a local bookstore. But these are by no means requirements for operating a successful bookstore. Judging and gauging the area, and catering to the needs of the people who live there, will afford you the most success.
Making a Business Plan and Obtaining Financing
As good as your business model and goals for your bookstore may be, you will more than likely need outside investors or to secure a loan. While you can definitely go the route of obtaining a business loan from a traditional lending source such as a bank, according to a recent New York Times article, many would-be bookstore owners are looking towards crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo for assistance in achieving their dreams of owning a bookstore. Regardless of the type of funding or financing you choose, you will need a business plan that succinctly explains what you plan to accomplish and how you plan to grow your business.
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Drafting a business plan seems daunting on the surface, but the internet provides access to numerous valuable resources right at your fingertips. The Small Business Administration, or SBA, is a wealth of resources and information for entrepreneurs in general. From the SBA's website, you can access an online learning center with helpful publications as well as take advantage of interactive tools that walk you through making a business plan. You can also pay a visit to your local SBA office for in-person workshops and assistance.
Another invaluable resource available to entrepreneurs wanting to open a bookstore is the American Booksellers Association, or ABA. This membership-based trade association hosts events, offers tips for business owners and advocates for independent booksellers. You can sign up on the ABA's website to receive basic information for opening your own bookstore.