Welcome to On Small Business’s series spotlighting interesting crowdfunding campaigns, where we regularly feature a new company or individual attempting to raise money through these new online portals.
Who: Deborah Bodin Cohen, 48, a rabbi and author of eight children’s books, including the “Engineer Ari” series.
What: The Story House, a bookstore on wheels that will specialize in books for children and young adults.
Raised: $8,664 of a $20,000 goal (as of June 27). The campaign began June 14 and ends July 14.
What’s the pitch?
Deborah Bodin Cohen has spent the past decade writing children’s books.
Now she is hoping to sell them — from a bus.
About a year ago, Cohen came up with the idea for the Story House, a bookmobile she could drive around Montgomery County. She would fill it with 2,500 books for children and young adults, and partner with schools, book festivals and community organizations. Eventually she hopes to host birthday parties and author visits.
“Reading was really important to me when I was a kid, and it’s really important to my children,” Cohen said. “Also it feels like there’s a real need for an independent bookstore in Montgomery County. We have Barnes & Noble, but we really don’t have anything beyond that.”
But where to start?
First, she needed a bus. And a license to drive that bus.
She calculated that those two things — a used bookmobile, along with taxes and fees, and commercial driving lessons — would cost her upwards of $40,000. Books would cost another $20,000.
She had about half of that money in personal savings, but needed a way to fund the rest of her project. That’s where Kickstarter came in.
“I thought, well, this might also be a good way to get the word out about the project, especially since it’s so community-based,” Cohen said.
She set a goal of $20,000 and set up her campaign. Within two days, she’d raised about $1,500 from 25 backers.
What kinds of books will you sell?
Cohen, whose children are big fans of Harry Potter, says she plans to stock a range of books for preschool-aged children to high schoolers.
“I will be focusing mostly on books that don’t have very strong commercial ties, so no Lego or Disney,” she said. “I’m looking for more books that are literature-focused, that are well-received, that have a strong benefit to readers.”
Among titles you might find on her shelves, “The Tin Forest,” about a man who dreams of trading his lonely metal surroundings for a colorful forest, and “The Scrambled States of America,” a whimsical book about geography.
Cohen says she would also like to carry titles by local authors and have a few shelves of rotating books, depending on the event she is attending: science and technology books for a school’s science fair night, Jewish books if she’s at a synagogue, or themed books for birthday parties.
When do you plan to open?
Much of that, Cohen says, will depend on how quickly she can find a vehicle.
“A bookmobile isn’t the easiest thing to locate,” she said, adding that they tend to be more popular in the Midwest and the South. “It’s not like there’s a ton of them out in the market or anything.”
Ideally, Cohen would find a bookmobile this summer and spend a few months renovating it, painting the front and stocking it with books. She says she would like to be on the road by early fall.
“But first,” she said, “I have to meet my Kickstarter goal.”
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Editor’s note: Our coverage in this series does not constitute an endorsement. For more information about crowdfunding, please check out this SEC Fact Sheet.