Forging a business with passion

When Western Australian Kerry Ridley suddenly found herself on the end of a work place redundancy from her admin role, she was understandably in shock. Like many people who face workplace downsizing, she simply didn’t see it coming. 

“It took me a month of drinking copious amounts of bubbles and having what I call a pity party,” Kerry smiles widely, “But I’m at that age where I really needed to think about what I wanted to do.”

Kerry found herself thinking about what actually brought  joy to her life, and two things stood out above all else. Marrying her two passions – books and travel –  she discovered her entrepreneurial spirit and created a business no one else had thought to do before. My Little Book Shop is Australia’s only travelling bookstore and although Kerry had no previous retail experience, that has gone from a hobby to a successful business in only a few years. 

While she originally thought about a horse float to house the books, Kerry found a 22-foot vintage caravan on Gumtree and spent three months renovating the mobile shop now affectionately called Audrey.

“There was a lot of swearing involved but it was actually a lot of fun.”

No stranger to travelling around to remote places, when Kerry was twelve years old, her parents packed up the family for an adventure, heading across the Nullarbor and around Australia. Her partner Simon is also a FIFO* worker and over the years they have lived in many places, included Laos for a period. 

Kerry reached out to family and friends asking for any books they no longer wanted. The business however expanded and became a retail book store rather than second hand, and Kerry decided to stock and promote Authors from her home state. Several authors have happily signed copies of their books to sell along the way. She is always excited to show case the many talented authors that hale from her home state. 

“It’s always exciting to discover new books by local writers, and promote them in a way that some mainstream book shops don’t do.”

In 2019, Kerry joined several online women’s business groups and listed her business in one.  Within hours, someone from The National Trust contacted her which resulted in her first gig at the Rock and Read Children’s Reading Festival in Freemantle. There she met many W.A. based writers and authors who all loved what she was doing. 

Selling many books to teachers, and to Libraries in small towns has become a joy for Kerry.  Even Freemantle Press have asked her to do events. She now stocks approx. 2500 books, a combination of children’s books, Young Adult fiction, Adult fiction and non-fiction, and coffee table books. 

“I now feel like I’m part of the book industry.”

Deciding which towns to visit started as a pin on a map to anywhere Kerry hadn’t been before but these days Kerry networks with Councils, Shires, Farmer’s Markets  and Women’s Groups. She explains that the smaller towns love when My Little Book Shop comes to visit. 

“Everywhere we go becomes an event, with storytelling or high teas! Libraries are purchasing books they don’t normally get to see and schools in regional towns reach out when they are having events.”

As we meet virtually, Kerry is planning a five-day wheat-belt tour going to community centres and creating a pop-up shop. 

“The most beautiful part is the connections you make and the people you meet. Country people are wonderful! Young families after Covid-19 have come back to books. The sales of kid’s books have gone up. Bringing books to small towns means that can happen.”

My Little Book Shop has led Kerry to other opportunities. She has a slot each month on WA based Foxtel show The Couch, talking about her top five books which she thoroughly enjoys. She always showcases three books written by W.A. authors, one international book and a children’s book. 

Kerry is extremely proud to have changed careers and built a business as a woman over fifty. As the mother of three adult daughters, she was determined to show them that getting older is no barrier to following your dreams. 

To any women contemplating a career change, or having one forced upon them, Kerry offers this advice, “The sun will always come up tomorrow. It’s okay to take your time and think about what you want to do. Don’t overthink it, decide and then go for it!”

Kerry Ridley with comedian Ben Elton