Books will never die out because people love a feeling of connection and comfort, and books give that to people in spades. The browsing of a bookshop is one life’s great pleasures, no matter how old you are.
Nadia: Can you please tell us a little about the vision behind My Little Bookshop, and a little about you? What made you open a bookstore?
Kerry: The concept of starting a bookshop on wheels began a few years ago when I found myself unemployed, my father had died, and my life was in a little bit of turmoil, to say the least. I had two options, I could go back into a workforce to trudge through 9-5 and compete with the youth of today (who themselves are struggling to gain employment) or take the cliched line of “what do I want to do for the rest of my working life that I love”.
Travelling and reading are two things I love dearly, so I thought I would combine them both and that is how My Little Bookshop was born. I took the cliché, and it is the best thing I’ve ever done.
My background was in administration with real estate or government roles, in other words, a very organised, colour-coded kinda girl (highlighters were my high). I had no retail experience whatsoever, just a love of reading. My catch cry when I started was “how hard can it be?” I’ve since wizened up, lol.
Personally, my favourite things to do are hanging out with my grandsons. I’m the kind of granny that if the boys ask for choc chip biscuits and Cheezels for breakfast, who am I to deny them? Having a bubbles or two, listening to all sorts of world music, at the beach or by the pool, totally blissed out is a great way for me to unwind. Plus, the all-essential digital detox break every now and then, I’m very conscious about that.
I’m quite passionate about women’s equality and other inequalities in the world. Closer to home, my oldest daughter has a disability and over the years this has strengthened me to stand up for what I believe in and to call out inequality when I see it.
Nadia: What’s the best thing about owning a bookstore?
Kerry: Oh, this is an easy one to answer. I have regular market day events once a month. When my customers see I’m back again, I love that they come rushing over to check out what’s on offer, what’s new on the shelves and give me updates of what is going on in their world.
Heading out to country towns is a definite favourite for me because the country folk are so down to earth and genuine. They appreciate when a business makes the effort to go to their town and they have the most wonderful sense of community.
I’m a people person, so it’s a great thrill to talk to so many wonderful individuals, all with different perspectives on life, depending on where they are from.
I sponsor an organisation called Story Dogs that helps primary school aged children improve their literacy skills. Basically, the dogs and owner go to the schools and help the kids learn by reading to the dog. It’s a non-pressure environment which is a win-win all round. It’s an extra buzz for me that the dog I sponsor is at a school my own child attended many moons ago, it gives me a feeling of connection and full circle.
Nadia: What’s the hardest thing about owning a bookstore? What specific challenges are you facing re the pandemic situation?
Kerry: I have to put my thinking cap on for this. There’s always challenges in life thrown at you, especially with a global pandemic. I guess, for me, the challenges are probably how to grow the business while balancing cash flow, and Covid-19 has not helped in that respect. Thankfully, my business is doing just as well now, as before the Covid-19 shutdowns and restrictions, and everyday I’m grateful this is the case.
It made me realise I do have the strength and tenacity to keep on powering through because I’m doing something I love. The adage of “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”, really came into play last year.
My other challenge is I am my own boss and employee; there is no one else to be accountable to. On the days I wake up and just say ‘nah, not today” requires a mental mindset to remind myself why I started the business and chant a couple of grateful mantras to kick-start me into moving.
Nadia: What are your favourite type of books to sell and why?
Kerry: I spend quite a lot of time sourcing books inclusive of minority groups in regular story lines. Even using the word minority group is uncomfortable, as I think people are people, and in turn, have different issues we should all be supportive of. Kindness is key. As an example, I stock children’s and YA books that include characters that are disabled, transgender, LGTBQ, Indigenous, stepfamilies, and empowerment. I feel I am doing my bit to make the world a better place by bringing to mainstream an awareness of such issues. It reminds me of an interview I heard once where a movie producer was asked “why do you always have women in superhero roles?” and his response was “because you are still asking me that”.
I am a big fan of promoting Western Australia and have a big focus on stocking and supporting local WA authors. Western Australia has some amazing talent and a lot of the authors who are self-published do not get a look in, especially in the big major chains. The support from my customers is amazing, and they are always surprised when I tell them the books are from someone who lives in their town or suburb. People love supporting local.
Nadia: Why do you think people should buy books?
Kerry: A world of imagination and knowledge are at your fingertips, plus you don’t need to recharge or change passwords, lol. In saying that, I have quite a lot of regular customers who use all three main platforms for reading; hard copy, e-book and audio. They mix and match to suit what they are doing at the time. For me, surprise surprise, I’m a hard copy book person. I’ve tried the different platforms, however, it’s still a screen and I felt like I was working. Reading a physical book gives me the pleasure of truly relaxing and being in the moment of the world I choose to delve into.
Storytelling is what it means to be human so it will never disappear. Today the formats may have changed, however, people telling their stories is part of the human psyche. Books will never die out because people love a feeling of connection and comfort and books give that to people in spades. The browsing of a bookshop is one of life’s great pleasures, no matter how old you are.
Nadia: Can you please tell us about any other activities you are involved in?
Kerry: I’m a member of the Australian Booksellers Association, who are an amazing resource for me and such lovely helpful people. I’m a member of two Chamber of Commerce’s south of the river. This lets me stay up to date with what is happening in the small business world for WA and a great networking resource.
This year I plan on attending more literary and author events. I want to connect and get to know the wonderful people, whose books I have on my shelves but I am yet to meet.
Connect with Kerry at My Little Bookshop