Small Business Talk

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Turning a Passion Into A Business - Kerry Ridley

Welcome to today’s episode of the Small Business Talk Podcast where I chat with Kerry Ridley from My Little Bookshop, turning a passion into a business. Kerry tells us about travelling around Western Australia in a vintage caravan selling books. The uniqueness about it is that it is the only mobile / travelling bookshop in Australia. How she combined 2 passions and turned them into a business.

Come on a journey with us –  Small Business Talk Podcast Episode 29.

Click here if you prefer to listen at iTunes or Stitcher (for Android)

Show Notes

Background

My Little Bookshop is a 22 foot retro caravan decked out in a funky vintage style that travels around Western Australia where you can step inside, browse and select from the shelves of new and pre-loved books. It is unique in being the only travelling bookshop in Australia. The very first event for My Little Bookshop was with the National Trust of Western Australia where Kerry gained valuable insight into the literary world of Western Australian authors and contacts to help kickstart her business.

Kerry Ridley is the business owner and travelling book merchant, if you will, of My Little Bookshop which opened in May 2019. After years working 9 – 5 at a screen of words and numbers, Kerry decided to disconnect from the digital and embrace what she loved in earlier years. A book in the beach sunshine, backyard ambience and fireside snugness. Pure bliss! and why keep that to herself, and there My Little Bookshop was born.

Kerry enjoys hitching up and driving the retro caravan around the countryside with her loyal offsider Bella the roaming Cavalier King Charles, taking books to the people who don’t have regular access to mainstream shopping, let alone the fun to be had in perusing books and stories whilst having a chat in a quirky bookshop. The love of reading a real book, being totally whisked away and involved in the story and most importantly the feeling of time to yourself.

Turning a Passion Into A Business

My Little Bookshop is a vintage caravan that travels around WA selling new and used books going out into the country towns and to city events. The back of the van opens up, so it’s like one big hinge at the back of the van. It opens right up, and there’s a staircase… I call it the “Grand Staircase,” that you can actually walk inside and browse and buy some books and it’s all there on the shelves, and its good fun. I’ve set it up sort of like a Happy Days diner.

Very sort of ’50s. At this point I’m just testing different places, different markets, for different books. It’s like half new books / half used. And probably quite a few of my favorite authors in there at the moment, as well.

Lots of pre-loved and lots of memories.

Kerry has a classic kid’s section, which is all the Enid Blytons and Peter Pans and Winnie the Pooh, that sort of thing. “I tend to find that, at this point, I’m selling more of the kids’ books at the family events that I’ll go to, and they are all very brand orientated with Disney, “Frozen,” them sorts of things, but then when I go out to the country towns, the kids are just more interested in the “old school books,” shall we say, the old classics. It’s interesting to see the difference with the urban versus the regional, and what the people prefer, and what the kids prefer.” Kerry says

Enid Blyton’s becoming the new the-must-read popular author again, so what’s new is old and what’s old is new. She’s back on trend.

Books, Travelling and Living Life

Well the travelling’s always been there from My dad. We were living life in the suburbs in Rockingham as kids, and one day my dad said, “Okay. As a family of five, we’re going to pack up and travel around Australia in a caravan. I was 12 at the time, so it was all very exciting.

I did the correspondence schooling, which back then was all done by mail and post. Before we left, we had to go to the education department, get all my stocks of the curriculum for the year, and that consisted of a lot of reading material. 3 months into the travels, I’ve read all of the books. Because for me it was just to me like winning lotto. I had all of these books to read.

We’re about 18 months travelling around Australia and stopping at all these different little places. Which was fantastic, because to just experience all of that, to experience from an early age, different places, different towns, different kinds of people. It was just one of them things that has been entrenched in my brain my whole life.

The travel bug was set in from there, and the books as well.

They come home and went back to life in the suburbs. Life moved on. Kerry has done a lot of travelling, lived overseas, and which is another fantastic experience to give you different perspectives of life. When living overseas, Kerry tended to buy the local book, buy the local newspapers, and obviously get to know her neighbours. She learnt about the local authors in the places she lived.

Kerry came back to Perth Western Australia because she had grandchildren and for 7 years settled into corporate CBD life until she became redundant.

How a Passion Became a Business

What next, I had to be creative to think, “Well, okay, what do I want to do for the rest of my working life? I thought this is a good opportunity for me to combine, I guess, the two things that I love the most, which is the reading and the travelling. It took me a few months to find the right van. I didn’t want a standard food truck. I knew the vision and the style and the look that I wanted it to be. And out of the blue, on Gumtree of all places… ” Kerry says. The journey began to turning that passion into a business. “Initially my thoughts were, “Oh this will be nice. I’ll have my caravan and I’ll travel around and I’ll sell books.” End of story. And it’s like, “Okay, this isn’t actually quite that simple.” Kerry said Kerry found quite a niche little market, people were very supportive of the concept and the idea, then she thought this could actually probably be something and a good income stream for me, and just bringing people back to reading books. With retail closing, just to be able to give people back that love reading. A business was born, it went from that little idea to now a copyright trademark and having businesses contacting her to book My Little Bookshop their events.

Tips for Turning Your Passion Into a Business

  1. Embrace the technology – social media, websites and the tech to get it all together
  2. Don’t listen to the nay sayers – people do read
  3. Do your research – different areas may have different needs for example urban kids read different books to regional and country kids
  4. Know your numbers – eBooks have actually been declining for the last five years by 1% every year and real books increasing
  5. Technology can bring new opportunities like the resurgence of book through on demand printing
  6. Have a set routine when working from home
  7. Access free government resources that are available – there are lots
  8. Have fun and just do it.

Listen to  Small Business Talk Podcast Episode 29 to hear all about Kerry’s journey on turning her passion into a business and of stories as well.

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