Hi Becca! It is so exciting to hear about your new venture, please introduce yourself and The Little Travelling Bookshop to everyone reading.
Hi, and thank you! I’ve always wanted to start a business that in some way, big or small, makes a difference to people’s lives. And after a series of life-changing events, I sought solace in books and that was it for me… I began to think, how can I turn this deep rooted love that I have for books and turn it into a business that affects people the way I have been [positively] affected and bring joy to those who need it most, whether they realise it or not. The Little Travelling Bookshop is a vintage van which I’m converting into a small bookshop and unique events space but more than that, I see it as just the start of a business that will seek to enlighten, help improve people’s mental health and wellbeing, help them stay curious and ultimately just make people happy.
What was it that inspired you to start your business, and did you know right from the start that you wanted to be a mobile book shop?
A few years ago I suffered a pulmonary embolism, unprovoked (medically speaking) and out of the blue. I was unable to do much of anything as my lungs recovered from the blood clots, but I could read books. As I read more and more and when I started to get better and visit my local bookshop, I thought about how it was not only the books that were helping me but also the entire bookshop experience. And for some people living in rural parts of Scotland, that’s an experience that they’re missing as their nearest bookshop can often be miles away. So I decided early on that if I was starting a bookshop, it would be mobile and I’d go to people rather than then come to me.
I suppose there’s also a part of me that’s a bit wanderlust. I love going on adventures and travelling and this is a way of me creating a business that works for me – for the most part that’s why we start businesses isn’t it? To make a living doing something that suits how we want to live.
Can you share with us the benefits that your bookshop will bring to communities, schools, and people out and about at fairs and festivals?
I think books hold a special place in people’s hearts and bookshops in our communities. They’re a place to escape to when life gets too busy. Or connect with like minded people. A place to find books that affirm our beliefs, or challenge our perceptions, or build our empathy. And I think, particularly this year with Covid-19, it’s become even more important for us to switch off from the news and social media, to put down our phones and pick up a good book instead. I want to bring this sense of calm that I know I feel when I walk into a bookshop to communities in Scotland. For me, it’s the same feeling I get when I climb a hill or go walking in nature. I’m reminded that we’re all just a small part of something much, much bigger – books connect us to our past, they help us stay present, and imagine our future.
You are in the process of raising funds on Crowdfunder, how has this process been for you so far? Please share details with us about where we can go to donate.
It’s a lot of hard work running a crowdfunding campaign but it’s also incredibly rewarding. The feedback that I’ve received has really warmed my heart and kept me going when little doubts have crept in. I’ve put together lovely gift boxes as rewards which include books and other small gifts that I’ve sourced from local (to me) Scottish producers. And I suppose, conscious of the longer term impact that I want to have with The Little Travelling Bookshop (in terms of improving people’s mental health and wellbeing), the gift boxes are designed to help people relax and switch off, like our most popular reward – the Coorie In Gift Box which includes The Art of Coorie – How To Live Happy The Scottish Way by Gabriella Bennett and The Scottish Bee Company’s Lavender, Tea Tree & Apple candle.
All of the funds raised from the sale of our rewards will go directly towards the interior conversion of our vintage van. You can support my crowdfunding campaign here.
What kind of vintage van do you have and what is the process like converting this into a bookshop? Are there any particular additions or quirks within the bookshop that you are particularly proud of or excited to be implementing?
I’ve gone for a Citroen HY van. I love them because they’re robust but also friendly looking. And they’re a good shape and size for converting into a small bookshop. I looked into buying an old library bus but they’re just too big for me to manoeuvre around Scotland’s winding roads. I’d also need a new licence! So a Citroen HY it is! In terms of the conversion and the interiors – there’s a lot to think about and I was probably quite naive when I first started talking to the company that I’m working with on the conversion. But they’re a great company (based in England) and they’ve got a lot of experience converting Citroen H vans. I’m still trying to figure out a good way to create some kind of canopy to protect people from the Scottish weather so if any readers have any expertise in this area then please do get in touch.
I bet you can’t wait to finally be able to get out on the road in Spring 2021, what locations are at the top of your list, and where else do you plan on travelling to throughout 2021?
I’ve had a request to visit the Scottish islands with the bookshop which would be my absolute dream! Can you believe I’ve never visited a Scottish island? The shame! So that’s top of my list. But I’ve also had requests from people in rural Aberdeenshire, Aberfoyle, the Borders, rural Perthshire and even south of the border in Somerset, Yorkshire and Wales. I just want to travel as far and as wide as I can with the bookshop.
Can you tell us what sort of fairs and events you will be popping up at?
Well, all being well with the Covid-19 vaccine, I’d love to pop-up at as many book festivals as I can next year – well known and less well known. I also want to visit food markets like Bowhouse in the East Neuk and larger festivals celebrating good music and people like the Kelburn Garden Party and MHOR Festival, as well as wellbeing festival Scapa Fest. I just hope they can go ahead for all our sakes! I really hope we can host our own small events too, from author talks to book launches and signings. I think there will be a bit of a transition for some people in terms of getting used to being around lots of people again, so I’m hoping our events will be just the right size, outside and socially distanced if that’s what we still need to do.
What sort of books will you be stocking?
I won’t have a huge amount of space in the bookshop but I’ll be stocking books by diverse authors and bringing them to our communities. I think there’s so much that we can all learn from reading about other people’s experiences or perspectives on life and particularly those that come from very different backgrounds. I also want to have a focus on books that improve our mental health and wellbeing and that can be anything from cookery books to spirituality and travel. And of course, children’s books for when I visit nurseries and schools. I might need a bigger van after all! I am planning on creating an online ordering service so that people can order their books in advance and then come and collect them when I’m visiting their community.
Where are you currently located in Scotland, and what is it like to live & start your business there?
After stints in Glasgow and Edinburgh (for studying at University and for work, mainly), I’m now living in Kinross which is where I grew up. It’s changed a lot from when I was growing up. There’s the Loch Leven Heritage Trail now (I’m showing my age!) and some amazing, independent businesses that have really inspired me to think differently about starting a business in Scotland and particularly from a rural-ish town. I’ve started a business before with my partner Andrew and I’ve noticed a huge change in the support that small businesses are now getting. If there’s anything I’ve learned from starting and running a business though it’s that entrepreneurship isn’t just about having a great idea, it’s about believing in yourself, being resilient and ultimately creating a life that you want to live – wherever that may be – that also, hopefully, sustains you.
What would you recommend seeing and doing to people visiting your area?
First and foremost, it has to be the Loch Leven Heritage Trail. I can’t tell you how lucky I felt during Lockdown to have it on my doorstep. It’s a very doable 13km for cyclists, runners or walkers and the scenery and views of the Loch are just stunning. There are also some lovely cafes and coffee shops along the Trial, like Loch Leven’s Larder (which also has a great shop) and Unorthodox Roasters which is in Kinross town centre.
We love to discover new Scottish businesses, what are your favourites that you would like to share with us?
I love discovering new Scottish businesses too and there have been so many that I’ve discovered recently – mostly through The Little Travelling Bookshop’s Instagram. A few favourites are: Ballintaggart Farm, a beautiful place to stay in rural Perthshire – they also have a cook school, wonderful restaurant and a small shop selling locally produced foods. The Kiln Creative is a pop-up pottery shop and another mobile service. I love their stoneware mugs! The Modern Croft is a beautiful craft, design and homeware shop in Oban and I’m hoping to pop up there before I jump on the ferry to the islands with the van! All of the businesses whose products I’ve included in my gift boxes – Scotland The Bread, The Scottish Bee Company, Unorthodox Roasters and We Are Gloam. And finally, because I love to learn, The Village School who are running online tutorials with the likes of Great British Bake Off semi-finalist Flora Shedden. I mean I could go on and on…
WHERE CAN WE FIND OUT MORE?