By Jennifer Mullin, Events and Special Programs Manager
February’s community event was an intimate evening spent in conversation with two lovely couples that are known to give and give and give back to the community. Steve Costa and Kate Levinson, owners of Point Reyes Bookstore, as well as Christin Evans and Praveen Madan, owners of Booksmith, reminisced about their early days and how they have become dominant educators in their community by building cultural institutions. They passionately told their stories on running an independent bookstore in the 21st century, from the point of sales, all the way to operating a business with their spouse.
Steve and Kate didn't know much about operating a retail business when they bought an independent bookstore in rural Point Reyes Station in 2003. But they shared a vision for being part of a community and a desire to make a difference. Now, looking back, they speak about the joy of owning the bookstore has given them in the last 10 years. Steve asserts the importance of taking risks and how it’s important to continue taking risks in life and business.
“We have created a magical place,” Kate says with a sparkle.
She mentions, in a tongue twisting fashion, she knows that when a customer purchases a book; she knows that they know they can get it for a cheaper price, and that they know that she knows…and it’s that sense of loyalty and connection she is grateful for.
Christin and Praveen are both MBA’s who spent the first part of their careers advising Fortune 500 companies on business strategy and operations. Praveen’s tell us about his first lesson in owning a small business, “You will learn fast, it’s all about the people. They don’t tell you that in Graduate school…. but you will succeed or fail on how well your people skills are.”
He continued with a little push, “If you are going to start a business, start it soon, there is no right time.” Talking about how their business has evolved, they said the days of for-profit bookstores are over and how they have embraced the non-profit model. In good news, they said they got a 30% jump in revenue when large bookstores such as Borders closed their doors.
The excellent facilitator Sarah Cabel, a Presidio MBA candidate, hesitantly ended the conversation with a very personal question of, “What is it like to work with your spouse?”
Kate replied, “Perfect…” with that sparkle in her eye again.
The question hit home for current student Anne Sauer, “I was especially interested in hearing about what it’s like to work as couples in a small business. My husband is starting a start-up; it’s a good perspective to hear from people who have been there.”
Emma Allison (MBA C17) said the conversation, “ended on a super fun high note about their current good reads.”
The panel favorite reads were The Round House by Loiuse Erdrich and Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier. Be sure to check out Kate Levinson’s book Emotional Currency: Women Building a Healthy Relationship with Money.
It was a very special evening, both intimate and personal, and we all gained a great perspective on how we can thrive amidst the changing times.
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