Sage pop-up shop winner #1 – Deborah Maclaren, LoveReading

Sage pop-up shop winner #1 – Deborah Maclaren, LoveReading

Small Business sat down with Deborah Maclaren, co-owner and managing director of LoveReading, the online bookstore with a social conscience, and one of the three winners of the Small Business x Sage pop-up shop competition.

LoveReading was one of three winning businesses chosen by our expert panel to occupy a pop-up shop space in London’s busy Oxford Street earlier this month.

LoveReading is an online bookshop that donates 25 per cent of the cover price you pay for physical books to a school of your choice to buy library books. And every book listed has 10 per cent knocked off its retail price in the first place.

The brand enables book buyers to actively support their local school, with a certain percentage given to schools in deprived areas. Sixty per cent of teachers say they don’t have money to buy books for their students.

Deborah Maclaren became managing director of the Love Reading portfolio of brands in mid-2018 but she has been involved in media for 25 years. After starting at Conde Nast in the mid-1990s, Deborah Maclaren became London head of sales at Future Publishing band then became commercial director of Highbury House, looking after its portfolio of more than 45 magazines.

What is LoveReading?

It’s an online bookstore with a difference. We’ve been around since 2005 and our brand has been all about book recommendations. We were one of the biggest book recommendation websites in the UK, but we decided we wanted to start selling books. We knew that we had to do something different in order to be unique, so we decided to launch a bookstore with a social purpose.

When you go to LoveReading, you have the option to donate 25 per cent of your purchase price to a school of your choice for them to buy books. In the last few months since we launched as an online bookstore, we have donated £25,000 worth of books.

Where did the idea for LoveReading come from?

I’ve been a school governor a tiny church school in south-east London to the last eight years, so I have seen the nightmare of balancing a budget. It’s one of the biggest school governing issues of our time. The per-pupil funding that we have now as a school is pretty much the same as it was in 2010. Schools are having to make really tough decisions – can we afford heating or library books? Or do we get rid of our teaching assistants? We wanted to do something to help redress that balance and because our children’s site LoveReading 4 Kids is so big and so trusted – and we know tens of thousands of people use us to either find their child’s first favourite book or their next favourite book – we knew that we had an engaged audience.

Reading for pleasure is so important and there’s so much research that tells us reading has more of an impact on the outcomes of our children than anything else – whether it’s their social demographic profile or what their parents do.

This is a way for adults to buy books in a way that gives back to schools their kids attend?

Absolutely. If your child goes to a school, at the checkout you’ll be asked, do you want to donate? You pop the school name in and the school gets a notification and when they check into their dashboard, they can see the money totting up. We’re then giving the schools lots of resources for them to share all about us with parents and carers. The school can say, ‘If you’re buying books, then please go through LoveReading because it’s a new revenue stream for us, a new funding stream which will help us purchase books challenging to buy.’

What made you decide to enter the Small Business and Sage Popup Shop competition?

One of the challenges of a small business is that you don’t have any money, especially when you’re giving away 25 per cent of your profits.

We’ve got a really small and incredibly passionate team who believe wholeheartedly in what we’re doing but we don’t have PR or marketing resource. This for us was really an opportunity to showcase what we do to a different, wider audience. This has been an incredible opportunity for us to have a physical presence for the first time.

What would your advice be to anybody thinking of entering the next Sage pop-up shop competition?

It has been a joy. It’s made us think, yes, we can do this, we can do physical events. I would just say, just grab this opportunity. Take the time to apply. As a fully remote company, it’s just been so great for us. The support we’ve had from Sage and Small Business has been brilliant. It’s just been a seamless, brilliant experience.

More on the Sage pop-up shop competition

Sage pop-up shop winner #2 – Katie Cross, Cake or Death – Katie Cross, director of vegan bakery Cake or Death, sits down with Small Business to tell us about her experience of winning the Sage pop-up competition

Sage pop-up shop winner #3 – Katie Hanton-Parr, Baboodle – Katie Hanton-Parr, founder of Baboodle, tells Small Business what winning the Sage pop-up shop competition has meant for her online baby equipment subscription business