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So You Wanna Start A Mobile Bookshop with Flannery Buchanan from Bluebird Bookstop

Welcome to our So You Wanna Start A... series, designed to give you a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the journeys that went into creating some of your favorite local brands.

Today's guest is Flannery Buchanan owner of Bluebird Bookstop, a mobile bookshop set up in a vintage camper in Crozet, Virginia.

Our favorite piece of advice: "Stay flexible." Structure is a valuable tool in business but too much rigidity can cause you to lose out on new opportunities that come up. Flannery has it right when she says you've got to be open to following new doors. You never know where they might lead you!

If you're curious about starting a mobile bookshop, learn a little more from Flannery and connect with her using the links below!

1. What do you own and why did you start this business?

I own a mobile bookshop operating out of a vintage camper. I started this business because as a former librarian and avid reader, I've always enjoyed reading and connecting with people over books whether peers or children. I had been a stay-at-home mom for fifteen years raising four avid readers and indie bookshop aficionados so it became a family dream to have our own bookshop. Given the nature of our busy home life and the tough financial picture of the bookselling world, I decided that opening a mobile bookshop would be the way to make our dream come true with perhaps the brick and mortar bookshop another step for down the line.

2. Tell us about your main offer(s).

Our collection is curated given our space constraints so we carry mostly new and notable titles with a couple of very popular backlist titles. We have Adult Fiction & Nonfiction, YA, Middle Grade and Children's Books.

3. What's different or unique about you?

We take the books to the people! I take the trailer to breweries, vineyards, coffee shops, markets. I try to park where I know people are gathering already. The trailer offers an experience and my family and I offer recommendations (my teen readers have YA down to a tee!). Two things Amazon can not. I also offer monthly personalized book subscriptions, tailored for the recipient. Think of me as your personal librarian!

4. What is an early win you had that made you feel like you were on the right path?

I have had so many supportive people that have changed the course of my path and supported me in big ways they probably don't even realize. The first time I parked the trailer at a local coffee shop, some local Bookstagrammers and other customers active on social media posted their finds and gushed about the trailer. It made my heart swell and I knew I was onto something.

5. What's one of the biggest challenges you’ve had?

The biggest challenges I've had are mostly logistical--hot and humid Virginia summers--I've lost a few books on the trailer to that, stink bug infestation, etc.

6. What are three pieces of advice you’d give to aspiring bookstore owners?

1) Connecting with people has been the most important aspect of my job and success. In today's world where we face such hard news daily, people are just looking for a reason to connect. Providing that connection, making people feel heard and seen goes a long way.

2) Stay flexible! You may have your business plan all neatly packaged but life and circumstances throw curve balls as the old saying goes. Being on your toes, ready to 'pivot' as you follow open doors is essential. Sometimes there are opportunities out there that are perfect for you that you had no idea about!

3) JUST DO IT. Nike was right. Do you have a dream? Just do it. What are you waiting for?

7. What are some of your favorite business books or podcasts?

I don't typically read business books OR listen to business podcasts. BUT I am inspired by memoirs and podcasts about people, especially women, following their dreams and overcoming their own insecurities and fears. Listen, my high school years were formed by watching Oprah after school so I still find her Super Soul Podcast amazing--Brené Brown, Tarana Burke, Michelle Obama. I loved reading Michelle Obama's book Becoming because it came at a time when I was learning that we are all not one thing, fixed, typecast. We can evolve and BECOME. That was revolutionary for me and made my business aspirations possible.

8. What are three of your favorite business resources you couldn’t live without?

1) My small business friends: My two entrepreneurial cousins and my local small business owners. Truly. Together with another small business owner in my area, I've put together an organization called Blue Ridge Social Community as a way for women to lift each other up, share resources and ideas. We'll be hosting our first market in October as a way to give a platform to women at various stages of the entrepreneurship journey. It's important to me to pay forward the help and advice I got in my journey to owning a business!

2) I've also found a lot of help from a Facebook group for other non-traditional Bookshops.

3) My accountant. Get yourself a good accountant who will answer your questions patiently even if you have to ask twice.

 9. Where is your business heading next and what are you excited about?

2022 will be the year I sit down and analyze what worked in 2021 and what didn't. When you are building a small business, it's so hard to say NO so I made a promise to myself that after I said YES to as much as I could in 2021, in 2022 I would decide what hard choices I had to make. Beyond that, I want to constantly stay fresh with what I offer my customers and I'm most excited for what that might be. New ideas come to me daily so stay tuned!

Find Flannery & Bluebird Bookstop:

Instagram: @bluebirdbookstop

Facebook: @bluebirdbookstop

 Website: bluebirdbookstop.com

Want to be featured in our SYWSA series? Fill out our contact form here to get the ball rolling.

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