About to launch, this box-fresh book subscription startup with a feminist twist is already generating some impressive buzz.
Books That Matter is a soon-to-be-launched monthly book subscription box aiming to empower and inspire women and girls.
"I have curated these subscription boxes to deliver one book considered to have the ability to challenge world views, motivate and stimulate; as well as two gifts from independent female-identifying artists, providing a platform to showcase and support their craft," explains founder and director Molly Masters. "Books That Matter is more than a subscription box, it is a vehicle for empowerment and the stimulation of conversation on social change."
Books That Matter is currently very much a one girl band. As sole founder and director, Masters has been running the business herself since last September, whilst also finishing the third year of a Literature degree, working part time and tutoring English. But her team is growing steadily. "I’ve now got an amazing support network which includes my fabulous illustrator," she reoprts. "And I’m currently working to build a small team of bloggers too, which is really exciting."
What's the gap in the market?
Masters believes three recent statistics about women prove the potential for a powerful commercial opportunity. The first is a familiar one: that 75% of book buyers are women. However, according to the Dove Self Esteem Fund, 92% of women do not feel good enough, feel unsuccessful and do not feel empowered. And in a study by Mintel, 81% of women reported that they read books as a leisure hobby. Masters' conclusion? Women purchase and read the most books, but have the lowest self esteem.
"There is a window of opportunity here to engage women and girls in the reading of important and powerful literature, and to ensure that the books that are being read empower, inspire and enrich them," she says. "Coming from a working class background, I know first hand how difficult it can be for many to access and understand important world literature. I don’t believe it should come with a hefty price tag, either. Books That Matter, for me, provides this innovative and affordable route to thought-provoking literature which feels like a gift every month. And social media has allowed for the growth of the most amazing community for readers to share those thoughts with."
Recent high-profile campaigns, from Me Too to the Women’s March to March for Our Lives, have led her to believe that the market is ripe for her idea. She's also keen to support the call for more diveristy in publishing, and aims to select books that will provoke conversations on gender, sexuality, politics, race, history, identity, and mental health.
Success so far
Books That Matter is still in pre-launch development stage, but Masters was recently awarded first place at the Start Up Sussex prize for young entrepreneurs, run by the Sussex Innovation Center in Brighton - the first ever female winner. The prize awarded a generous grant to help her propel Books That Matter along. Pre-orders launch in July, with the first round of boxes being delivered this September.
Masters is in discussions with global brands and publishers that she met at this year's London Book Fair. She's also excited by the rate at which the Books That Matter online community is growing. "Every day I get the loveliest comments and messages and tweets, and I feel so overwhelmed by the love I’m receiving for a product that hasn’t even launched yet," she reports.
The most obvious challenge is that old entrepreneurial chestnut: time and budget. "The business idea came to me whilst I was studying in my second year at university, and I was materialising the vision by the beginning of my third year. Juggling full time study, tutoring two pupils, a part time job, and starting up the business was just insane; but all of the hard work has truly paid off now."
She's also open about her own lack of confidence in pitching the company; a rarely-admitted but common issue for founders, and one Bec Evans has written about so eloquently for us in the past. "I’d say one of the hugest challenges was pitching Books That Matter to the judges as part of the Start Up Sussex process," Masters says. "I suffer with anxiety and in the past public speaking has been a real challenge for me. But I tried to be as prepared as I could and I received so much amazing support from my mentor during the scheme."
Masters' aim is simple but ambitious: to make Books That Matter the number one book subscription box in the UK. "The ambition has always been to shed a light on female authors, authors of colour and minority voices," she says, "and the more Books That Matter grows, the more this can be achieved, and the more women we can support."
Ultimately, she'd also like to create a Books That Matter publishing house, "so we can publish the books we want to see in the world."
Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?
"It is easy to feel like a fish out of water when starting up a new business and marketing a new product -- but don’t let doubts creep in, don’t be intimidated, don’t give up. Your success is only limited by your imagination and determination. Along with this, I’d say to network, network and network! I’ve found that there’s a huge amount of support out there from other women, and that operating in a 'community over competition' manner is so important."