What do you do if you love travelling, have a passion for books, and find yourself at a significant turning point in your life? For Kerry Ridley the answer was obvious: start a travelling bookshop!
“The concept of starting a bookshop on wheels began a few years ago when I found myself unemployed, my father had died, and my life was in a little bit of turmoil, to say the least,” Kerry says.
Faced with the unappealing prospect of trying to fight her way back into the workforce, Kerry decided to follow her heart and My Little Bookshop was born. Trundling her way around the greater Perth region, Kerry sells new and used books at markets, festivals and events.
“I’m a people person so it’s a great thrill that I get to talk to so many wonderful individuals all with different perspectives on life depending on where they are from,” Kerry says. “I have regular market day events that are once a month, so when the customers see I’m back again, I love that they come rushing on over to check out what’s on offer, what’s new on the shelves, and updates of what is going on in their world.”
On the road… with Kerry, Joe and Audrey
For most weekend events, Kerry takes out Joe Juggernaut, a specially kitted out ute in the My Little Bookshop's distinctive blue. But for larger events or to towns further afield, Kerry has Audrey the caravan.
“Heading out to the country towns is a definite favourite for me because the country folk are so down to earth and genuine,” Kerry told us. “They appreciate that a business makes the effort to go to their town and they have the most wonderful sense of community.”
The wonderful wizard of Oz authors
Kerry is proud that My Little Bookshop has a strong focus on Australian authors and even showcases local self-published authors who the bigger retailers generally won't stock. And of course, as a West Aussie, she has a soft spot for homegrown talent.
“An absolute favourite of mine from local Western Australian author Holden Sheppard is Invisible Boys,” Kerry says. “It’s about three teenagers in a regional town high school who have to deal with peer group pressure and hiding who they truly are. I’m so excited for Holden as he has not only won the City of Fremantle Hungerford Award but is also this year’s winner of the WA Premier's Book Awards. He is truly an amazing talent and the book has been optioned for a movie and TV show.”
Zen and the art of running your own business
Of course, it's not all smooth sailing in a mobile bookstore. It's still a small business and Kerry needs to ensure she treats it that way and not just as a hobby.
“My morning routine is alarm at 6am, cup of tea, walk the dog, and get myself ready for the day so I am in my home office ready to start for 8.30am,” Kerry says about the day to day running of My Little Bookshop. “I found I needed this structure as this is what I was used to in my previous roles of ‘going out to work'.”
Then there are event days, which see her starting at 6am, and author events which tend to be run in the evenings, meaning some days she's working up to 10 hours.
“Running a small business, and a travelling one at that, I do what it takes to make this bookshop business work on every level,” Kerry says. “My other challenge is that I am my own boss and employee, there is no one else to be accountable to. On the days you wake up and just say ‘nah not today', it requires a mental mindset to remind myself of why I started this and do a couple of grateful mantras to kick start me.”
One of Kerry's other reasons to be grateful is that she's able to support the not-for-profit literacy organisation, Story Dogs. “Basically, dogs and their owners go to the schools and kids improve their literacy skills by reading to the dog.”
Big magic starts small
While 2020 proved difficult for many small business owners, especially those involved in events or travel, Kerry is glad that she is at least able to work on something that she cares deeply about.
“It made me realise that I do have the strength and tenacity to keep on powering through when I'm doing something I love,” Kerry says.