Blind dates are a risk, but let’s be honest – the excitement and mystery are a rush. Will there be chemistry? Will you be a good match? Will this be The One? In bookshops and libraries all over, people are asking themselves these questions…about books. The concept sounded amazing to us – get fixed up with a new book and see if you’re compatible. Maybe you’re in a reading rut or just tired of figuring out what to choose next. You might find true love! And if it doesn’t work out, you don’t have to worry about this blind date wondering why you haven’t called.
Katy Lowe of Shrewsbury, Shropshire in the U.K. runs a business called Blind Date Book Company and loves playing matchmaker for bookworms.
Tell us a little about yourself. Why and how did you start this business?
My name is Katy Lowe, and I am a 34-year-old full-time shift-working mother of two young boys! I have been answering 999 calls for the fire service for the last ten years, working shifts. I LOVE my job, but something was missing. I wanted to put some focus into something I was passionate about. That was and is books and reading.
A friend of mine returned from a holiday in Australia with a “blind date” book. It was wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string, and some words were written on the front. I immediately fell in love with the concept. I quickly Googled to see if I could buy one in the UK, only to find that there was no one selling them, apart from a few Etsy shops in the USA and this one shop in Australia.
I did some research and soon decided to start my own business selling Blind Date Books! It all happened really fast. I was soon stood behind a wallpaper-pasting table at a local craft fair, selling my first batch of wrapped books. Which, looking back I would probably cringe at the quality of wrapping! I started by buying every book that I have read and loved. So, each time I sold one, I got excited, like I was introducing the customer to an old friend. The money I made from this fair meant I could buy some business cards and also more books. I started selling my books online which was great, and the feedback was brilliant. People loved the whole concept and most importantly, my style and little extras.
How does it work?
You can choose a book based on just four words or by genre. It’s a new way of deciding what to read next. When I first started, I’d list all the wrapped books, and you’d go to my online shop and choose one based only on the four words. Now, as time has gone on, this is still an option, but you can also choose your Blind Date Book based only on the genre Your four words are then added at the time of wrapping. This option is my best seller.
I sell new and pre-loved books and also gorgeous gift boxes. I try and use local businesses for some of the items in the gift boxes, like some local Shrewsbury Biscuits from a local bakers and also our teaspoon hand-stamped bookmarks from a local small business.
Each blind date book comes with a letter explaining the concept and also a hot drink option. We ship internationally.
How did people respond at first? How about now?
People’s response has been the same from the beginning to now. Once the penny drops and customers truly get it – I love watching people’s faces once I’ve explained – they generally buy one, which is obviously great. There are, however, a lot of people who just don’t understand. No matter how hard I try to explain. I find it easier to show them.
Instagram has been my biggest social media platform – the Bookstagram community have been amazing, and everyone loves the concept! I love regramming photos people take of their Blind Date Books.
What’s been your best moment? What’s been your biggest challenge?
My best moment so far has probably been winning a pretty big award from Theo Paphitis via Twitter. I won the Small Business Sunday award (handpicked by Theo Paphitis) just a few months into my business, and it was a great boost. As a winner, I was invited to attend a big networking event in Birmingham. I got to meet lots of great other small business owners and was able to take on some valuable business knowledge during a question time held by John Mills (JML), Deborah Meaden (Dragons Den Guru) and Theo Paphitis. To be recognized through awards such as SBS is a great privilege, and it’s something I am really proud of.
My biggest challenge so far has been balance. I’m still trying to find the right balance, and currently, some things are NOT happening. My house is a right mess, but I’m getting there!
What are your goals for the future?
To have more Blind Date Books for sale in retail shops. At the moment, we are in three small independent gift shops. I’d like to expand and take on some help, and obviously, spread the blind date book love around the world!
I love working with young people, and yesterday, I visited a local school to put on a workshop with the students to wrap some library books for a Blind Date Book Valentines Display. It was great fun. I would love to do more of this in the future.