1. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    Owning one's own business

    Discussion in 'Research' started by MissPomegranate, Aug 24, 2010.

    One of the characters in my story owns a bookshop. I really like the idea, and it plays into the plot line, so I want to keep it in. Unfortunately, I have NO clue what it's like to own your own business (or even work in a bookshop for that matter...).

    It's not a big part of the story, but I'd at least like to know a thing or two. Any help is greatly appreciated, thank you!
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Is there a bookstore, or other similar small business in the area? Talk to the owner.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    No idea about a bookshop, but I ran my own computer firm (we provided small businesses with a computer department in whatever capacity they needed it.) And I helped run my Mum's hotel when she became sick, I was fifteen.

    The hotel was horrible, it was during a recession and I had to do the books, nothing was hidden. Having to let people go at that age was sickening. You can't be afraid to do anything, cleaning toilets, windows whatever is needed to have everything the way it needs to be.

    The computer firm was a huge learning curve as my husband was the geek but he became sick and I had to learn allsorts from computer repair, to consultancy, programming, putting together databases. I was lucky I could do the public speaking and publicity bit blindfolded. Then I needed to relearn bookkeeping etc (the law and taxes changed between the first business and the second one)

    I am not built to work for myself lol I don't like the responsibilty and its not something I would choose to do. I like having the security of a regular pay check, and not being the one to have to let people down gently, or take the tough decisions. I was very relieved when both ventures came to an end. My Mum moved on, and we decided my husband should get a proper job lol it involved a pay cut, but its nicer I feel to have less money in a regular amount.

    In todays markets I know bookshops are struggling, they need to be more innovative, have more creative ideas or they fold. If you are setting it in 2010 you need to consider it being specialised or having a coffee shop or another gimmick. Try typing Black Books into youtube its a comedy about a bookshop few years old but it was at the start of current problems bookshops are having dealing with more internet bookshops etc Even Borders has gone under, and at one point the likes of Waterstones looked dodgy.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first of all, do you need to know any of the details to write this story?... if so, do what cog said...
     
  5. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    I owned a bookstore for about 2 years in Ohio. I sold new and used books, indie comics, art, and harder to find magazines. It was a dream but financially a mistake. In my case, I opened with too little capital and wound up not being able to sustain the business over the long haul. I'll give you a synopsis of what went into it.

    To begin with my partner (Who later became my wife.) and I looked at a variety of spaces for the shop. One near a college, a few that were unremarkable, and the one that we decided on--a storefront on in a suburb of Cleveland's near westside that had a number of independent businesses, including import music, fetish clothing, indie music, goth stuff, etc. We thought it would be pretty good. Parking was an issue, all on street, but it seemed sufficient and there was a lot of foot traffic.

    We developed a business plan. Got a loan. Bought and salvaged shelves and a counter, register, an all of the other goodies that we would need. We thought of a name, "In A Bind" that we registered with the State of Ohio, got our licensing and all that.

    The fun part was getting our inventory. I seeded the stock with most of my own books, which were threatening to takeover the house. Then it was off to estate sales, garage sales, library sales, and any where else I thought people might be selling decent books.

    For new books, I opened an account with Ingram. Comics I bought from Diamond and Cold Cut. Magazines Desert Moon.

    An artist friend painted our window and did our first storefront display with found art, punk rock mannequins and books.

    Optimistically, we had both quit our jobs. I really did not think, at the time, that we would have any trouble making what we needed.

    I was loving life.

    We had a big opening night party, it was packed. There was wine.

    Then my wife placed the comic order wrong and we wound up owing an exorbitant amount of money to Diamond. We fought with them and cancelled the account. After that, it was strictly small press comics. (Slave Labor Graphics were always a big seller.) We thought we would take credit cards. The machine was expensive and with what the processing fees were, we would have been better off not bothering. There were days when almost no one would come in. We advertised in local weeklies and the reps were jerks and again we probably could have saved the money. The only decent one was the Gay/Lesbian paper. And being near the fetish store, it wasn't uncommon for strippers and stripper wannabes to walk in by mistake, go "Oh my gawd, this is a book store!" and walk out.

    Then there were the schmucks who would come in every week with suitcases full of musty, moldy books that they had dug up out their aunt's bottomless basement, that they thought I would be eager to buy or trade for. I would explain that I did not need six yellow copies of 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull,' they would leave, then come back next week with a new batch.

    The hours were long. It was only my partner and I. Initially were open from 10-9 daily, 12-6 on Sunday. Later I changed it to 12-9, 12-6 Sunday, Closed Monday. My partner wound up taking a job serving at a restaurant part time. I later took a job at a library.

    We stayed afloat as long as we did because of the internet. It was 2000 and ebay was still fairly new. We sold a lot of stuff on ebay or half.com.

    We formed an art walk in the neighborhood. Every month we would get about ten artists to bring stuff in, hang them in the local shops, and the first Friday the stores would stay open late, have a reception, and we would get some free press. That was a lot of fun.

    There were things I loved--being responsible to no one but myself, working hard at something I had created, the environment, most of my customers, friends made. It was really a wonderful thing. But hard.

    Once I came in and found my ceiling collapsed. There were apartments above us and the alcoholic who lived upstairs got drunk, passed out in the tub with the water running and it flooded part of my shop. This almost happened twice, but the second time I was open and realized it and woke him up. Once a car ran off the road onto the sidewalk and nearly came in through my from window.

    We could not sustain it. We closed on a sad day in October. The only bright spot was my partner and I got married a week later.
     
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  6. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions and insight, everyone!
    erik martin, your description of your business helped a lot! Out of curiosity, when did you close? I live about half an hour from Cleveland, plus I have family that lives there, and for some reason the name "In a Bind" sounds strangely familiar...
     
  7. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    It was in Lakewood on Madison Ave. I opened in early 2000 and closed in late 2001. If you know Lakewood it was right where the Mission, Chris' Warped Records, Chain Link Addiction, and some shops are (Or were--some like the Mission moved down the street since.)
     

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