I love the idea of women getting a little treat every month or so. Subscription boxes are a great investment in yourself and also make a great gift for those you care about. As they arrive, they are a little reminder that you exist and that you matter. It is easy to lose sight of that as we juggle increasingly busy lives. I try to be a champion for women’s voices via this blog. So I am delighted to share an interview with Rachel from the Rare Birds Book Club so we hear more about her books subscription service.
Tell us a little about your childhood and teenage years
I grew up in Canada – sometimes my friends tease me because my high school years sound like something out of a film, there were a lot of house parties in the suburbs and summers spent at sleepaway camp. I badly wanted to grow up and be an adult out in the world, living in a city, slinging cocktails. Friends and Sex and The City were both huge when I was a teenager and that was very much the glamorous life I wanted to lead. I haven’t quite reached that level of sophistication… but I do still get a thrill when I’m out for dinner or drinks on a ‘school night’.
What was your first job? What did you learn from this?
My first real job was working at a Children’s Theater Company, teaching classes and directing plays for children from the ages of 5-15. This was an amazingly fun job, and a small business to boot – I learned a lot of life skills on the job. One thing that’s always stayed with me is how important creativity is. You can problem solve your way through just about anything if you’re willing to think a little differently about how to do get it done.
What led to you setting up your business?
I built what I couldn’t find. I was reading all these great books by women that I didn’t feel were getting the recognition they deserved. At the same time, friends were telling me they’d read more if they trusted what they’d be reading would be good. I needed a mix between convenience and curation; I wanted to be part of a book club without the burden of showing up to meetings and wanted great books to read without doing all the legwork. Turns out that didn’t exist. So I decided to try it.
Tell us about your business
We’re an online book club and book subscription service. In a nutshell how it works is: subscribers pick what they want to read each month from a choice of two secret blurbs. All our books are recently published fiction titles and what they all have in common is they’re all by female authors – otherwise there’s a ton of variety to get people reading out of their comfort zones. Books come beautifully wrapped with an introduction as to why we’ve picked them. Then, at the end of the month, the whole community meets back online for our digital book club, where we take a deep dive into some of the themes of the book and share what we loved (or didn’t) about what we read. We really believe in reading for fun, for the sheer enjoyment of it, which is a message I feel gets lost a lot of the time when we talk about reading. It can absolutely be self-improving, but I do think at the end of the day that books are there to be enjoyed.
What tip would you give to someone who wants to set up a business but lacks self-belief?
Confidence comes from doing. Give yourself permission to start even if you’re not ready yet or don’t have all the answers. You can find the answers and get better at whatever you’re not good at yet. Failure feels like this big scary thing, but it doesn’t feel half as crappy as sitting on the sidelines not doing something because you’re too scared to try.
Who supported you as you set up your business?
I had a ton of moral support from friends and family when I first started sharing the idea for the business. The consensus was basically: go for it, why not? I also had a lot of practical support, too – people were incredibly generous with their skills and experience. Friends were able to help me with everything from the most basic questions like – how do you register a business? – to more advanced stuff like branding and building the website. I was able to hire people I knew and worked with before to help me in the early stages and that made all the difference; they knew me and what I was trying to accomplish and I could trust the advice I was being given.
If you could recommend ONE book to women what would it be and why?
That’s such a tough question – if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few years running Rare Birds it’s that there is no one book that applies to all women. Our tastes are all different. That said, a recent favorite of mine is Madeline Miller’s Circe – it’s a brilliant reimagining of The Odyssey from a woman’s perspective and has a bit of everything. Our book club read it in June, and it remains one of the most popular titles we’ve ever sent out.
If you could recommend ONE website (not your own) to women, what would it be and why?
I really love Man Repeller – it’s a brilliant platform with lots of interesting, smart discussion that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I really look up to its founder, Leandra Medine. She evolved Man Repeller from a blog she started in university into a multimillion-dollar business. She’s inspiring, and also very cool!
Huge thanks to Rachel for this interview.
Do you fancy receiving a books subscription box regularly? Who would you gift a books subscription present to today?