The winner of the "How Well Do You Know Midcoast Maine" photo contest gets the White Hot Spotlight on The Killer Convo as a way to profile artists and creatives in the area.
Dena Davis, of Thomaston, mother of two young boys and a former classroom teacher,
began selling children’ s books and music as a home based business over three years
ago. She discovered a small publisher called Barefoot Books when she was teaching in
California and fell in love with the art and magical stories. Today Dena’s Barefoot Book
Nook is well-established and growing.
What is your Barefoot Book Nook business?
I own a traveling bookstore as well as an online bookstore at BarefootBookNook.com. We carry a wide inventory of Barefoot Books, CDs, puppets, and puzzles. I set up at different fairs and festivals and run Barefoot Book Fairs and Fundraisers for schools, libraries and other nonprofits. I typically attend small, local events, but this year, I'll be setting up a booth at the Southern Maine Pride Festival in Portland, as well as setting up a booth at the Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors Show. I also provide story times and activities at different venues, which have included several local libraries, Toy Library Center, Coastal Children's Museum, and the Green Fair at Plants Unlimited. I also help others start their own Barefoot businesses.
How did you stumble into this as a part time business?
My background is in teaching at the elementary level. I also had a brief stint in marketing at an independent book distributor, PGW, in California. When I discovered Barefoot Books while on vacation in Maine, it was a match made in heaven. The gorgeous art and beautiful stories drew me in. Little did I know that I would move to Maine, have two children, and start my own Barefoot business. Running a business from home gives our family the flexibility we need while raising a son with special needs (our oldest has Cornelia deLange Syndrome, or CdLS) and a new baby (now a year old) who joined our family through MAPS’ Domestic Adoption program. I can work my schedule around therapy appointments, doctor visits, music classes, and play dates, which would be more difficult to do with a regular part-time job. Barefoot really provides me the opportunity to make money doing something I love, sharing beautiful books with children and families.
What is the Barefoot Books model? Who started it?
I love the Barefoot Books story! The most fascinating part to me is their grassroots approach. Barefoot Books was started by two mothers in 1992. Tired of the offerings in children's literature with all the commercial tie-ins and mass market appeal, CEO Nancy Traversy and editor-in-chief and co-founder, Tessa Strickland started Barefoot Books, an award-winning children’s book publishing company dedicated to taking high-quality art and story to children from all walks of life. Not impressed with the publishing industry's returnables model and the need to purchase "real estate" or positioning in larger bookstores, they made the decision in 2005 (which some told them was crazy at the time!) to pull out of big box stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble and focus on relationships and partnerships with independent bookstores. They have been committed to nurturing a love of reading in a way that encourages children to explore their creativity and discover the diversity of the world’s many cultures and traditions. They continue to sell to bookstores, gift stores, school and libraries through the traditional channels. I share the Barefoot values of fostering creativity and imagination, celebrating our diversity, and caring for our environment.
What are the kind of books you like to carry and sell?
Barefoot Books has about 400 titles in print. I carry a pretty wide selection of these, actually. I adore the fabric illustrations of Clare Beaton's books (Elusive Moose, There's a Cow in the Cabbage Patch) as well as the ethereal illustrations of Helen Cann in Forest of Stories and Barefoot Book of Dance Stories. I love the anthologies of folktales from different countries. My bestsellers are BB of Princesses and BB of Pirates, the books with singalong CDs for the toddlers and preschoolers and our books written by UK's poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy (The Gift and The Tear Thief), which are exquisitely written. I love our focus on different cultures in books for all ages. My favorites are Elephant Dance, a story about a grandfather remembering his days in India, and Mama Panya's Pancakes, a story set in Kenya that focuses on sharing and community.
What are your future ideas for this little business?
I've helped several local preschools earn free books and funds, and I'd love to offer an alternative to Scholastic in some of the public schools. I'd also like to work with Indie bookstores in the area somehow, perhaps offering story times and singing. I have many fantasies for the future that include starting a Young Writers' Camp or a Writing Center for children and adults, creating a writing and/or theater program for children with special needs, and providing homeschooling services to families. Who knows what the next chapter will include! I'm open to anything!
The Killer Convo
This blog is a is a killer roundup of all arts, entertainment, brewery & distillery, food trucks, happy hour happenings in the Midcoast Maine. Feel free to email me anything about Midcoast arts, entertainment & the creative economy.