A teen bookseller’s perspective on starting a business

What does it mean for a business to be successful? How can you measure success? What are the ways to establish a business presence? By owning my own antique bookstore and Etsy shop, I have had the opportunity to gain an understanding of the answers to these questions and insight into the process of starting a business. Naturally, I hope to reveal some tips I wish I’d known when I started my business, as well as discuss what it means to create a distinct image, choose a niche, establish a social media presence, SEO analysis, and acquire inventory.

A teen booksellers perspective on starting a business

Admont’s Library

Inspired by the largest monastic library in the world, The Admont Library (est. 2021) aims to capture the unparalleled beauty and baroque aesthetic of Admont Abbey in Austria. While we specialize in classics, we sell vintage books of all genres, and our goal is to deliver the gift of knowledge with style and care. As an antiques bookstore in French and English, we continually aspire to fill our inventory with rare books that have their own history, our collection of French literature even originating from the Valentine Museum in Richmond, Virginia. Each order is hand-wrapped, tied with string, and packaged with care. We also use recycled shredded paper to safely deliver our products and reduce our carbon footprint.

An idea first and a bookstore second, The Admont Library constantly strives to provide patrons with the best reading experience. As such, our goal is to ensure free shipping, a complimentary beer + bookmark, and 24/7 compassionate customer service to all customers. In addition to being a bookstore, The Admont Library aspires to serve as an online archive, where beloved classics and embedded audiobooks can be accessed at the click of a button. With the rise of The Admont Library as a bookstore comes the publication of The Admont Abbey Magazine, the only magazine dedicated to both booksellers and admirers of classical literature.

A teen booksellers perspective on starting a business

Start a successful business

Before starting your business, it is important to consider how to do it successfully. Well, first you have to define “success”. While many are quick to measure it numerically, based on revenue and number of sales, it’s equally measured by whether a company delivers on its promise with each order and customer satisfaction rates. For me, I offer free shipping, handwritten letters, and a complimentary beer + bookmark with every order. Not getting enough orders is a problem I can easily solve through ads, social media, etc., but defining a unique value proposition, like a business promise, guaranteed with all the order is more difficult but satisfactory if it is maintained.

Considering what defines a successful business, the first thing you need to do is determine your niche or the market for your particular product or service. What are you selling? And more importantly, what makes your product different from the rest of the playing field? You want a product that seeks to solve an existing problem with an effective solution, one that others will want and are willing to pay for, even at a premium.

Next, you want to determine a price for your product. Research your market. How much are customers willing to pay for products within your niche? What are the ways to offer affordable and attractive prices while still making a profit? When it comes to my bookstore, I offer free shipping on all orders and include the cost of preparing and wrapping the package in the total cost of each book. Free shipping is attractive because customers aren’t surprised by additional fees at checkout. This allows for transparency, which customers appreciate.

Other things to consider when planning your business are the type of customers you are targeting, what it takes to get the business up and running, your competition, and the means of advertising. Of course, starting an official business, at least in the United States, involves registering it as an LLC in your state, but I’ve decided to focus on the more fundamental means of starting a business.

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set up shop

Since summer 2021, The Admont Library has made its presence known through Etsy, a global online marketplace for handmade and vintage items. In my experience, I’ve made more sales on Etsy than on Wix, probably as a result of Etsy’s advanced search and SEO, which means customers are more likely to find my Etsy listings than my website listings.

Over the past year, I’ve developed my own website for my online antique bookstore and applicant file. By moving from Etsy to my own site, I was able to expand the capabilities of my shop to include an archive where classic favorites can be accessed at the click of a button. The transition to your own site is a big step and it’s not cheap either: it costs a couple hundred dollars a year to maintain a domain. However, having your own website also means entering a new phase for your business, one that allows you to truly capture the image of your business through the design of your site. Owning your own domain also gives you complete freedom when it comes to customizing your storefront to your liking. In my case, I’ve used my website to post product listings, host an archive of free eBooks, and share a magazine. Starting your own website provides a professional touch to your business and lets customers know that you are committed to future growth.

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An online presence

A strong social media presence is key to a successful business in today’s modern world. By opening an Instagram account for my bookstore, I was able to drive traffic to my website and set up an Instagram shop to expand the reach of my business. Apps like Instagram help you target a specific fan base and build connections with customers.

Starting an Instagram Business Account and Facebook Page allows you to set up a shop on the Instagram and Facebook marketplaces. You can then run ads to target particular audiences and a guaranteed number of people. While there is a cost to posting ads, they can be beneficial in spreading the word about your business.

One means of indirectly promoting your business is through TikTok and YouTube. From ASMR videos of you wrapping your products to answering questions and answers about yourself, this multimedia allows customers to get a behind-the-scenes look at your business. Spreading the wings of your business through platforms allows you to expand the potential of your business. There is more to a business than just buying and selling, as there are connections to foster and perspectives to share.

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SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to the process of using keywords, tags, and the like to improve the quality and quantity of web traffic to a given website from search engines. For example, by starting a blog (mostly old and literary) on my website, I have been able to attract customers by increasing the visibility of my website when said potential customers scan through search engines.

An additional means of improving SEO has been to start a magazine. Starting a magazine has been a wonderful experience, both for my journey as a writer and for my business. I have received a lot of support from family and friends, as well as from Bookstagram. Originally a means of finding my voice, The Admont Abbey Magazine has allowed me to improve my site’s SEO and forge connections with other booksellers and Bookstagrammers through Q&A articles.

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Making your business known

Advertising mediums range from printing flyers and business cards to running Google and Instagram ads. While I don’t have a lot of experience with paid ads, I have read up on the subject and have also gone through the process of creating an ad, just to understand it.

Running paid ads through Google and Instagram is a definite way to reach a particular number of people and acquire a certain number of leads for your site. However, distributing flyers can help you establish a local customer base; the only drawback I find is that since everything is online these days, one must find a way to bridge technology and print. In my case, I have included QR codes on my flyers that lead to my Instagram account and website. Regardless of the means you use to attract visitors to your storefront, know that sometimes that problem can only be solved through trial and error and experience.

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In conclusion, it is a process

Regardless of where you are on your journey, if you’re starting a business, know that such an endeavor takes time, but turns out to be a rewarding process. It’s a wonderful experience to see something you’ve created from scratch come to life. Being able to provide people with the pleasure of reading is something I take great pride in and hope to continue to do for the rest of my life, so I hope you too can find an endeavor that you enjoy just as much.