It's a wonderful thing when you can take something you love doing and turn it into a great business.
Kristian Strom was able to do exactly that. He followed his love of rare books and turned it into a web-based business.
We were lucky enough to have Kristian participate in one of our entrepreneur interviews, and in the interview below he discusses a few of the lessons he learned while starting an online bookstore.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
I buy and sell rare and out of print books. I started the business in 2001 and I have a store front in Andover. Of course, through my website LowestCostBooks.com my business operates virtually everywhere!
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was a full time sales manager at a furniture store. I was already in the book business on a part time basis but I enjoyed it so much that I went full time.
Where did you get the startup money? From the wages I was earning at the furniture store, I was buying books while I was employed so my library was growing. Plus "advocated thievery," my mother wanted me to sell some of my father's old books (he keeps everything!) when he wasn't looking! Overall less than $1000 in start up money.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
Ironically some of my main competitors are some of my best friends. They sell books and I see them at book events. This is a business where sharing with your competitors is advantageous.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
People think this is a fun little hobby but it is really an all encompassing, and hard physical work at times. I travel more than I thought I would. I thought I would be selling more quantity – more of one title of book, instead I have single copies of really good books.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Every mistake has been a valuable learning experience. I wish I had hired an expert tax accountant from the beginning.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I've done a lot of word of mouth marketing, website, establishing a store front at the antique mall.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
I think that you have to focus on marketing. In my case I feel that promoting the website and email newsletter is an area
Thanks for the great advice, Kristian!