Investing in Herself and a New Bookstore

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    Coleen Harty of Madison, Wisconsin, has spent years perusing the vast category of personal growth books and tapes. Beginning March 1, she will be putting her knowledge into practice and helping others navigate the self-help arena in her own bookstore, Invest in Yourself. Harty, a long-time employee of the Middletown, Wisconsin-based Pleasant Company, founder of the American Girl dynasty, is opening the 1,500-square-foot store, also in Middletown.

    "My whole life has led me to this," Harty told BTW. "After reading so much on these topics, the idea came to me…. I decided if I let the idea go … someone else would take it." She said that her employer has been extremely supportive, allowing her to cut back to 30 hours per week.

    Harty's only retail experience was "many years ago," when she owned a craft store in a small Wisconsin town. The store didn't last very long, because, she said, "I didn't prepare adequately."

    Harty was not going to make that mistake this time around. She enrolled in the bookseller's school offered by Paz and Associates, organized in conjunction with ABA, and she attended the Upper Midwest Booksellers Association (UMBA) trade show. Harty is implementing many of the strategies she has learned and is winnowing the enormous category of self-help for the store's inventory. She will also distribute the series of leadership tapes published by Nightingale Conant, becoming possibly the only Wisconsin distributor.

    Joining Book Sense was an important part of Harty's business plan from the start. She is also starting up a Web site through BookSense.com.

    "In this day and age," Harty said, "you have to have a Web presence. I want the site to look professional to people. I can publicize events on the site…. At UMBA, five authors agreed to come and speak. Also, customers can order books on the site, and I'll have them ready to pick up during their lunch hour." -- Nomi Schwartz