Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Michele Jackson, Owner of Page 1 Books LLC, located in Evanston, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Page 1 Books is a monthly book subscription service. Our avid staff of book readers (literary matchmakers) personalize and hand-pick every book selection based on the customer's individualized preferences. Our customer field is as diverse as the universe of readers. We cater to the old and young, male and female, and anyone who wants a good reading experience. Our customers subscribe for themselves, but they also give gift subscriptions to friends who need help choosing what to read next, to parents who don't order online or get out to the stores, and to kids who love getting a box in the mail each month, to teens who have trouble finding what they need in local stores and libraries. Whether they want romance, history, mystery, or non-fiction, we'll hunt down the book just for them.
Tell us about yourself
I love reading myself. Immersing myself in the world of books is the best possible job. I love subscription services myself, so the idea of owning a subscription service that offered products I love myself was very enticing. And when we get customer feedback saying that we chose exactly what they wanted or introduced them to an author they love but had never heard of before, I get such a sense of satisfaction. All of us want to recommend things to our friends and have them love them, be it a restaurant, a clothing designer, a tv show, or a book. I just get to do that for a living.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
In the last years, when COVID limited our customers' ability to get out and shop or when certain bans on books made it hard to find titles dealing with feminist, racial, and LBGQT+ subject matter, I've been able to ship what the customers needed right to their door. I brought the bookstore to them when they needed books for more than just pure entertainment. They needed to read for information, education, support, and understanding, and Page 1 could deliver what wasn't readily accessible to them. That was a very important and rewarding accomplishment.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The hardest part is not being able to have that Hallmark dream of simply owning my own shop and spending all day discussing books or waiting on customers who want to buy books. Instead, most of my day is spent on accounting matters, taxes, vendor invoices, or the fact that the heat just went out in the Evanston, Illinois store in the dead of winter. I wish business ownership was as romantic an endeavor as one imagines in your daydreams.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Find the right employees whose goals are compatible with yours because you're not only going to need them for job tasks, they have to help you implement your visions. You can hire very competent and efficient people, but if they aren't on the same page as you are, then the work will not get done according to your plan.
- Your marketing plan is key. Get that in place before you do anything else. It's every bit as important as inventory and employees. Decide what the best platforms are for your advertising, and because it's expensive, you may have to narrow down your market. If you try to stretch your ad budget across too wide of an audience, you'll just minimize its reach and impact.
- A business that "runs itself" is a business that's not living up to its full potential. You or your trusted employees have to be hands-on in order for the business to thrive. Autopilot doesn't work.
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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