Two lifelong friends are writing a new chapter in their lives, after successfully launching Yorkshire’s first independent bookshop, dedicated to supporting the works of feminist and LGBTQ+ authors.
Juno Books, which is headquartered on Sheffield’s historic Chapel Walk, was founded by friends Sarah Scales and Rosie May after calling on help from the Launchpad Business Support Programme.
Now four months into their business journey, the fledgling entrepreneurs are setting their sights on creating a safe haven for book lovers to enjoy the works of authors that are often overlooked by the mainstream media.
The opening of Juno Books was the culmination of a lifelong dream for Rosie and Sarah, who built their friendship on a shared love of literature. Over the years, the duo frequently talked about working together and running an independent bookshop, but with no experience of running a business, the idea of self-employment seemed like a distant dream.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, both Rosie and Sarah found themselves furloughed. With time on their hands, their thoughts returned to their dream business idea. During the successive lockdowns they met regularly and went on walks together, often discussing authors they had discovered, the books they were reading and their plans to work together in the future.
As a first step, Sarah and Rosie decided to launch an Instagram account, which they used to celebrate the works of female and LGBT authors, who they felt were producing interesting works. To their surprise, the number of followers began to grow. The experience gave them the confidence to try their hand at selling a small selection of books online, as well as spending time talking to independent bookstores, to gain a better insight into what it takes to run a successful business.
Help came in the form of experienced business adviser Katie Keates, who Sarah and Rosie contacted through Launchpad: a free resource designed to help new and aspiring entrepreneurs in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw access support, training and advice to build and develop their business ideas.
Working alongside Katie, Sarah and Rosie began developing and refining their business skills. They spent time attending workshops, helping them to gain a better understanding of their financial responsibilities as a business owner, and began formalising their ideas in a business plan. With a clear vision about what they wanted to achieve, Sarah and Rosie decided to build their business around a 10 point manifesto, not only designed to support independent publishing houses, but to create a safe, friendly environment where equality is celebrated and marginalised members of society are welcomed. With online sales going well, Sarah and Rosie began scouring the Sheffield property market to find the perfect premises for their business.
The search for premises took nearly two years, but when they secured a lease on a property on Sheffield’s historic Chapel Walk, little did they realise that they would be adding a new story to a location that has played a pivotal role in Sheffield’s battle for equality for over a century.
The premises they chose are believed to have once formed part of a property used by the Sheffield suffragette movement. After opening the doors of Juno Books, which takes its name from the Queen of the Roman Gods, a customer provided them with a small bookmark dating back to the 1930s. The bookmark revealed that they weren’t the first bookshop to operate from the premises!
Since opening the doors to Juno Books last October, Sarah and Rosie are hoping to follow in the footsteps of the suffragettes by providing a safe and inclusive environment for South Yorkshire’s LGBT community. Today, the bookshop hosts regular reading groups and is planning to launch a series of meet the author events.
Now six months into their business journey, founders Sarah Scales and Rosie May are hoping to recruit their first members of staff in the near future and are planning to launch a book subscription service where budding bibliophiles can explore new and interesting works, produced by some of Britain’s most promising authors.
Sarah Scales, Co-Founder, Juno Books, said:
“There’s something special about visiting a bookshop, feeling the book in your hands and exploring the works of different authors. There are some really interesting books being published by female and LGBT writers, and we wanted to challenge the perceptions of what’s available in the marketplace and build a business that reflected our own experiences.
When we discovered that the building we work from has a connection to the suffragettes and had previously operated as a bookshop in the 1930s, we felt it offered an opportunity for us to play a small part in creating a fairer and more equal society.
We knew that starting a business would be a life changing experience, and we needed to go into it with our eyes wide open. Neither of us had a background in business, and although we felt there was demand for our unique bookshop, before we could put our plans into practice, we knew we needed to understand what it takes to run a business.
The support we received from Launchpad gave us the confidence to believe in our ideas. We attended a range of workshops, which helped us to learn about business finance and managing our accounts, and we also benefitted from one-to-one advice, which proved to be invaluable. Katie kept us up to date with ways of accessing grant funding to support our business, and the experience also helped us to make some valuable contacts. We’ve got some exciting plans lined up for the business including recruiting our first member of staff, as well as hosting regular book groups and events from our shop.”
Katie Keates, Launchpad Business Adviser, said:
“Launching a business isn’t something that happens overnight. In many cases it can often take time to develop an idea before acting on it. The launch of Juno Books was the culmination of many years of dreaming, planning and research, and both Sarah and Rosie knew that it was vital to understand their responsibilities as new business owners.
The Launchpad programme was created to help entrepreneurs based in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw to access a wide range of support: from mastering the essential skills needed to transform an idea into a successful business, to benefitting from specialist advice to help nurture their business journey. The work Sarah and Rosie have undertaken since lockdown demonstrated to them that there was a clear demand for their business, and as Yorkshire’s first bookshop dedicated to supporting female and LGBT authors, they are not only tapping into a market that offers considerable potential, but they are also creating a safe environment for like-minded individuals to come together and share their love of literature.”
The Launchpad programme combines regular training sessions, designed to give new and aspiring entrepreneurs the best possible start on their business journey, as well as one-to-one sessions, helping them to overcome specific challenges or problems they are facing. Financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by local authorities within South Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and The Prince’s Trust, the programme provides free help and support to budding entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting their own business or looking for help to achieve business growth.