In the spring I fell in love with Barefoot Books.
So much so that I put my money where my heart was and signed up to be an ambassador (aka reseller to you and me). Since then, I’ve shared the books with family and friends, mentioned a couple of our favourites like Herb the vegetarian dragon, Gardening with Grandpa here, but not really launched into the business side of it.
A month ago I was asked to “take Barefoot Books” to the Charlbury Riverside Festival and read some books there too.
Anyone who’s been to the Barefoot Books Studio in Oxford or Boston will know what a magical book wonderland these stores are. To recreate that in the field?! Now there’s a challenge.
Just look, this is what the store looks like:
My other challenge was to do this on a rather tight budget.
You see, I had decided to invest my winnings from the Grand Adventure competition into my Barefoot venture and grow the nest egg through my labour of love towards stories, books and all that Barefoot Books represents. I had to get stock to sell on my stall, making careful decisions which titles to invest in and what little was left over I wanted to create a magical wonderland for books.
Starting off, I went into the Oxford store had a good look around- colours, the feeling, displays. Then I looked for inspiration on the Internet and collected them onto my Pinterest board.
I knew what I wanted:
- Barefoot Books colours, i.e. rainbow colours
- Interesting display units of varying height and position
- The colour of the books to stand out
- A place for people to retreat to read a book
The very basic thing I needed was a gazebo. I decided to buy a pop-up one for ease.
Although white was the recommended colour from a number of, what seemed credible, sources, I got a green one based on the ease of getting it (It was available at my local Argos) and the price (it was on sale). I also got side panels, though it was only afterwards that I realised these were for a 3m x 3m gazebo and my pop up gazebo was only 2.4m x 2.4m… well a challenge to tackle later.
… cost £44 for the pop-up gazebo and side panels
I decided on 3 display systems:
1, The display table: a camping picnic table, which we already had. On this I created 4 levels of display with the help of some foam boards (which I found in Orinoco) and a large plastic box. I really liked how the lower level was easy to see for kids. I used a large valence sheet to cover this- I found the perfect red colour in one of our local charity shops.
… cost £2 (valence sheet) and £2 (foam boards)
2, The tall display: I wanted to add some height to display too, without having to carry something bulky to the site. I used our old wooden ladder, that I spruced up with some black paint that I got from Orinoco, our local paint recycling centre.
… cost £1 donation for the paint
3, The mobile display: as it was a 2 day event I needed some way to pack up my books and move them off site (whatever the weather) without having the use of our car; cars were banned for safety reasons. I found a garden trolley for this purpose. I then decided to use as a display unit too during the day. I draped a spotted rainbow-coloured duvet cover over it.
In order to bring the colours of Barefoot Books to the festival I needed a colourful backdrop. To give the tent this bit of colour I looked in our local fabric stores, but kept on coming up against cost. On the off chance I looked at what fabrics Argos had and found some really colourful bedding in rainbow colours. I cut the duvet cover’s seams off and had a large piece that provided a very cheerful backdrop indeed.
… cost £14.99 for c 2m x 2.8m piece (and the other pair of this came handy to cover the garden trolley)
I also knew I wanted some bunting, so I made my own:
First, I found one of those swatch books of fabric in Orinoco, our local scrapstore, recycling centre. I cut the flags out of the swatches. I sewed them onto some cotton tape. (Really easy, even when you are a bit out of practice with the sewing machine as I am)
…cost was £2.50 which was for the tape from our local haberdashers’
Second, one of the staff at Barefoot Books suggested using some old book proofs from Barefoot titles as bunting. The idea was to cut them in triangles and thread them onto some ribbon. As I was outside I was concerned with the elements ripping this so I laminated each flag. I then punched holes in the tops to thread ribbon through. The ribbon was another find in Orinoco- a thin strip of pink tulle. Worked perfectly!
… cost £16.50 for the laminator and 100 pouches.
Barefoot Books Studio also lent me a large banner. I only used this on day one, as it kept wanting to topple even with a little wind.
Books: I grouped my books by price. Instead of sticking prices on each, I used slate strips and little blackboards to display the price (both of which I had around the house).
I wrote on these using a chalkboard marker, because it’s neater than doing it with chalk.
… cost £4.50 for the chalkboard marker
Raffle: As this was my first public facing event, I was keen to start building up a customer list. My choice was between a free raffle for a smallish prize with potentially more entries or a raffle on which I break even, have less entries, but offer bigger prizes. I decided for the later.
I created the Magic Squares raffle. People spent £1 for a square. They popped a post it over their choice of number and then put their details into a little box for the prize draw. There were 49 squares and 3 prizes to win: £25 worth of Barefoot books, £15 worth of Barefoot books and £10 worth of Barefoot books. I had 3 independent people draw the prizes when all the 49 squares were filled.
Charity: Through my Barefoot Books venture I am currently supporting the Lullaby Trust in memory of Matilda Mae, a fellow blogger’s daughter. I give 15% of takings to the charity. At the festival the lovely organisers also allowed me to have a collection bucket so I created a small charity stand: I had a yellow charity bucket surrounded by pots of bubbles.
Bubbles at a festival are a MUST! They bring so much joy and laughter. I charged £1 for a pot and it went straigth into the bucket.
A bit of extra
My final challenge was creating a reading space. I decided to use our old tent. I set this up to the side of the stand and link the two with the open door of the tent. Inside I scattered cushions and some throws. On the outside I made a little Reading Nook bunting.
What I’ve learnt
- 2.4 m is very different than 3 m. Go for the bigger gazebo!
- If there is even the slightest chance of wind or rain put the side panels on when setting up. (We had a sudden storm swoop down and I couldn’t get the side panels on in the wind. I used them to cover the books directly, only to realise they are not waterproof, just splashproof. Queue- wet books and one very stressed stall holder)
- The table display system needs a bit more work. The levels worked really well, especially having books at a level kids could easily see, but without a ledge at each level the books slid off easily.
- This stall was perfect for a casual festival stall where people came in to browse through 2 days, for a busy stall I would use a larger table display.
Well, what do you think of my efforts?
Fancy doing something similar? Fancy starting your own business?
Barefoot Books have a special promotion for new Ambassadors: In addition to your already valuable starter pack you get a further £63 worth of first edition books hot off the press if you join before 31st of August 2013!