Military spouse Kalan Bavinck is making a big impact in Appleton with a relatively small investment, thanks to the Small Business Development Center at UW–Green Bay. “I wanted to be my own boss, so I could manage my health and work-life better,” said Kalan, whose job as a veterinary technician had become too strenuous. A devoted reader, Kalan was inspired to own a bookstore thanks to her first job, at a used bookstore in Texas in 1996.
Exploring a transition, Kalan said, she “stopped by The Book Store and chatted with the owner. I asked about how their system worked, and what she planned on doing when she was ready to retire.” The owner, whose mother opened The Book Store in 1977, expressed an interest in selling. That sparked Kalan’s curiosity—if she were to transition to bookstore owner, should she buy an existing business, or start her own?
SBDC helps with ‘build vs. buy’ decision
Kalan heard about the Entrepreneurial Training Program (ETP) offered by the SBDC at UW–Green Bay from her husband. As a military veteran’s spouse, BunkerLabs paid her fee. (BunkerLabs is a national nonprofit organization run by and for military veteran entrepreneurs.) The ETP course includes an overview of crucial areas in planning and running a business, assistance with writing a business plan that functions as a roadmap, and 1:1 counseling. SBDC consultant Dave Stauffacher worked with Kalan. During the ETP course, she wrote two business plans exploring her two options. Dave said, “I worked closely with Kalan on vetting the opportunity to purchase the Appleton business, so she could be comfortable with the transaction. It gave her the confidence she needed.” Kalan found Dave “very easy to work with, open and honest. He helped me think through the angles and put it all together in a business plan.”
Kalan recognized that area bookstores were closing down as their owners aged out. She weighed the pros and cons of buying stock and starting her own store, but decided buying an existing business would save time and effort. She said, “We’ll have a clientele, and a system already in place for inventory.”
Buy, trade, or rent at The Book Store
The independent bookstore offers a customer-friendly focus on mostly used books, complemented by the most popular new titles. But it is the trade program that makes it “for heavy readers, the best deal in town,” Kalan said. “We’re super customer-service oriented.” In a space she calls deceptively small, Kalan has created an eclectic, “wabi sabi” vibe where “it’s the imperfections that make life interesting,” she said. Since taking over the store, she has squeezed in more stock (purchased from a store that was closing) and added more seating areas.
Accomplishments with the SBDC at UW-Green Bay:
- Entrepreneurial Training Program
- Business plans written exploring build vs. buy
- Coaching through business acquisition process
Making The Book Store her own
Kalan avoided applying for a business loan by using home equity. “We were already refinancing our house,” she said, “so we just took a little extra” to purchase the bookstore and some fresh stock.
Dave said, “We think of million-dollar deals, but even a relatively small purchase like this one reflects how the Wisconsin SBDC program’s entrepreneurial training helps our veterans and our communities.”
What’s next for Kalan and The Book Store? Building on her passion for her customers by hosting events during the Fox Cities Book Festival, and working toward getting her constantly-changing inventory online. “I lucked out—it hasn’t been a huge changeover,” she affirmed.