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Profiles in Courage: Chats with independent bookstore owners, Part I

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A. I can’t answer that question for everybody but I can answer that question for us. Praveen and I both had reached a point in our career where we were very successful at what we did, which was help big companies get bigger. And we were very fortunate that we also could take some time off to consider what we wanted to do next.

And getting into independent bookselling for us was not the obvious choice. We did a lot of ideating about what our interests are, what our passions are, what we’d be excited about pursuing together as a couple. Bookselling was not obvious but it was one thing that came up and that we both kept coming back to. We both are readers and we both found ourselves spending a lot of time at bookstores.

We came from a background of helping companies apply technology to their businesses but also we are both MBAs so we both had business training and background. We basically said, what is it that an independent bookstore does? And we started to ideate about all the things that independent bookstores could do to create a sustainable model for their business, and the more that we got into that ideation the more we said there are a lot of things that bookstores should be trying to see if they can survive relative to the chains and Amazon.

I think it’s an incredibly exciting time to be in this space right now. I feel like I’m an entrepreneur in the Wild West in a way, on the frontier, because we’re seeing some really exciting things. We’ve built really strong ties with some local authors who are experimenting with self-publishing and promotion; we are working with established authors with new methods of promotion, whether that’s live streaming, video, using social media. In some ways technology allows us to enhance and enrich the community which already exists around the bookstore, so where there are opportunities to do that we’ve been actively experimenting and participating in that.

Q. How do marriage and co-bookstore ownership go together?

A. People that know us describe us as a great team. We’re very complementary. Certainly we were workaholics before in our old life, but now we’re workaholics and we’re working on something that we’re very passionate about and enjoy working on together.

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