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Women in Small Business: 5 Questions with Laurie Gillman

Name: Laurie Gillman

After her neighborhood book store closed, avid book lover Laurie Gillman did what very few of us have the courage to actually do: she started her own! East City Bookshop, located in SE DC, is a gathering spot where bookworms can swap ideas, take part in community engagement, and shop for books, toys, gifts and more. Laurie's story has been covered by local and national media. Her story is inspiring to anyone who ever dreamed about creating something special in their community. I'm thrilled that she took the time to answer my 5 questions!

1. What led you to owning your own business?

I never really considered starting a business until a few years ago - I worked in non-profit arts organizations most of my life. I specifically landed on the idea of opening a bookstore because the independent bookstore in my Capitol Hill neighborhood closed in 2009, and there were no bookstores nearby. We have a great used bookstore, but the only new bookstores were across town or in the suburbs. I really didn't like the fact that my neighborhood had no bookstore because bookstores are such great community hubs and I thought our community was a perfect bookstore neighborhood. Once I had the idea and realized that no one else was going to do it, I couldn't get it out of my head.

2. What is your business philosophy?

I think the thing I love about bookstores, besides the books, is that they really are community gathering spaces. In that way it's kind of a hybrid business because the mission of building community, which is very important to us, is similar to non-profit organizations I've worked with. The difference, of course, is that the things we do as a community hub have to create revenue so that we can stay in business. On the most basic level, our main goal is for people to leave the shop happier than when they came in.

3. What have you learned about yourself by owning your own business?

I've confirmed some things I think I already knew. I can be relentlessly focused and determined when trying to reach a goal, and I'm willing to work very, very hard. One thing that has surprised me is that I am often fearless in trying to reach that goal. Or maybe I should say I can look at my fears and worries and then set them aside and move forward.

4. What has been the most surprising thing for you?

I am continually surprised by how wonderful and kind and interesting our customers are, as well as others in the bookselling business. And I'm still surprised by how many people thank us for being here. That's a real perk of the job that I didn't expect.

5. What advice would you give to a woman starting a new business endeavor?

It's important to do the market research, be realistic, find a supportive community, and learn everything you can, but at some point you have to just go for it!

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