Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ashley Whitlatch, Founder of Books are my Third Place, located in San Francisco, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Books are my Third Place is a bookish lifestyle site. It consists of a literary luxuries shop, blog + weekly newsletter, and a Discord community for mostly fantasy, historical fiction, and sci-fi book lovers to connect with each other.
Originally started on TikTok as a creative outlet for myself during the pandemic, this space is a “Third Place” for those of us who don’t always quite fit in. “Third Places” are meant for connecting with people over a shared love of something and developing a sense of belonging. In this case, between the pages of a great book.
My community members come from all over the world and are generally avid readers or people who are rediscovering their love of reading. And my customers are looking for ways to express their love for their favorite book fandoms in classy and subtle ways.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up without TV, so reading was always a big part of my life. During the pandemic, my whole team was laid off, and I decided it was the push I needed to explore creating something of my own. I’ve spent over 15 years working for other founders in B2B and B2C spaces, and while I loved many of those experiences, it’s been so rewarding to build out my own dream. Yes, it’s long hours and quite stressful, but it’s also some of the most fun I’ve had.
My career has been focused on marketing and leadership development, most recently as a VP of Marketing at an AI animation startup. In addition to Books are my Third Place, I also have an active consulting practice enabling early-stage startups to develop their brands, launch their products, and raise funds as an interim Marketing Exec + Brand Consultant.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I’m still early on my entrepreneurial journey, and I’d like to think I haven’t achieved my biggest accomplishment yet. Right now, it’s about the little things. Knowing my customers and community members are happy, connecting with each other, and loving their little literary luxuries feeds my soul and keeps me going.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Discipline and not getting sucked into distractions or things that don’t move the needle. It’s so easy to work on things that are such a time suck–even if they’re fun–and then realize that they probably didn’t need to be a priority. So ruthless prioritization is critical as a business owner.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Make sure it’s something you truly care about, or you will burn yourself out and fail. Even when you love it, it’s still hard, so I can’t imagine building something I didn’t have a deep passion for.
- Take messy action. As a recovering perfectionist who wants everything to be pixel-perfect, you have to be willing to test, iterate, and put things out there that aren’t perfect. Otherwise, it’s so easy to create an excuse to delay your dreams.
- Connect with other founders. They’re the only ones who truly understand what you’re going through and can be a great sounding board, motivator, and sanity checker!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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