Creativity is fuelled by tea. I have no scientific evidence to support this but I’m pretty sure it’s true. I can’t start work until I’ve had at least one cup and particularly big ideas can require three or four. We have a mug that reads ‘Do what you love, love what you do’ so every time I drink tea I’m reminded of the importance of working with your passions. I firmly believe people should channel their energy and positivity into promoting (in the loosest sense of the word) a thing that they love.
I am a book person so most of my energy goes into bookish things. Although I’m an introvert and often struggle with meeting new people, all of my ideas are centred around creating communities.
It all started with a book blog – a great way to share my love of books. This led to other ways to help connect people in the online community both online and in the real world, starting with an international book swap, and leading on to an annual bookshop crawl in London celebrating the bounty of fantastic bookshops there are there. Through these initiatives, I developed more awareness of publishing and the book world and at the end of 2016 I set up my own small business curating quarterly book boxes and pairing independently published books with gorgeous, useful gift items related to each book.
According to many happiness studies, the thing that contributes most to our happiness is our relationships with others. Time and time again I hear of people turning their passion into businesses, and setting up these projects based on my own passions has made one thing in particular abundantly clear: support in any form makes a huge difference to small businesses. It sounds obvious, but it really can’t be said enough. It’s important to support small businesses because not only can you really make a difference to someone’s day, but also to their life.
There are a small but steadily growing number of communities dedicated to helping small businesses support each other. In the sectors – we work in the UK Handmade community is particularly vibrant, as are publishing coalitions such as the Independent Alliance and the Northern Fiction Alliance, where independent publishers have come together to promote each other, do joint events and generally gain exposure which they may not have the resources to gain on their own. I’m also part of a fantastic facebook group, Geek Boss Collective, which is entirely for women who run geeky businesses and is one of the best things I’ve discovered in a long time.
Small businesses are often owned by women and many of the businesses we’ve worked with so far are female owned (though far from all of them). Being a female entrepreneur is a wonderful thing because it makes it easy to tap into the natural well of enthusiasm and support which already exists, especially in the book community.
In my experience, many women are naturally very receptive to new ideas and willing to share knowledge and support other women and people taking a bit of a risk. When we launched our initial Kickstarter to fund the first Ninja Book Box, although we had male backers (and indeed have male subscribers now) we would never have achieved and exceeded our target were it not for the women. I have witnessed how experiences of being female, especially in such an online community, can often be very negative, but my own experience has been almost entirely positive – one of support, encouragement, mutual respect, and communication. One of the best things about women is their friendships and never has it been easier to find a group of mentors, supporters, and friends than on the internet. The networks previously mentioned are wonderful in this respect and the feeling of community from talking with and learning from other women is unbeatable.
Becoming part of a community of support, forming relationships with small business owners and connecting businesses with new customers has always been paramount for us. Our company, Ninja Book Box has been built with the intention of bringing more attention to amazing, underrated things, to put money into the pockets of people who work for themselves, and to be able to give money in support of literacy charities and projects. Having worked in many environments over the years, we find being able to see the difference that we’re making and having an outlet to express and explore our creativity has the most influence on our happiness. The most important thing about running a small business for us is crafting an atmosphere that we love to work in and are inspired by and there’s nothing so inspiring as knowing you’re supporting something brilliant and unique.
The turbulent times that we live in have the silver lining of helping to build people’s desire to find people to relate to, and also their self-propulsion and desire to support others. Inspiration to found our business came from the online community and I remain inspired on a daily basis by the way that community supports each other and the innovative schemes that publishers, booksellers, and book lovers are coming up with to promote their product. The internet makes space for much more direct responses to people’s struggles. The ease with which you can buy, donate and share means there is much less standing between people and doing good. The question is no longer why should I, but why shouldn’t I? This is fantastic for small business owners and especially those who are trying to incorporate aspects of philanthropy into their businesses, as is the case for many.
In many ways, it’s harder to be part of your physical community nowadays, but being part of an online community can help make people feel like they are part of something and can make a difference. That can often translate offline too – we’ve taken several of our projects offline and they’ve worked brilliantly. In fact, we’ve just got back from the Oxford Bookshop Crawl, our fourth bookshop crawl event, where we met brilliant people, discovered fantastic bookshops and bought so, so many books. It’s important to support small business because supporting small means you’re directly supporting people. Small businesses mean supporting families, communities and importantly supporting dreams.
With each box we produce we’re making connections with our customers and suppliers and connecting them with each other, and those connections are really why we’re doing this. From each box – we hear people’s stories and feedback. They fall in love with books and products and suppliers of ours become firm favourites of theirs. When you’re dealing with companies that are just one or two people it’s much easier to feel the personal effect of these relationships and see the difference that they make.
As I write this Ninja Book Box is approaching its first birthday and organising a huge collaborative, philanthropic celebration with independent publishers and small businesses of all kinds. We want to involve as many people as possible and would love to talk to you about it – get in touch via our website.
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