Bookstore entrepreneur shares story, tips for success


Margaret Dougherty

Alyssa Pressler a bookstore entrepreneur gives advice in pursing ones passion.

Margaret Dougherty, Editor-In-Chief

Alyssa Pressler, an owner of a used bookstore named That’s Novel Books, discussed her passion for books and entrepreneurial experiences on a Zoom e-talk on Oct. 18. The event was hosted by Jonathan Williams, a clinical lecturer at the Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Students from the Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Innovation class attended the discussion. 

Pressler founded That’s Novel Books in Charlotte, North Carolina in February of 2020, but her interest in reading stems all the way back to her childhood. In first grade, a reading competition compelled Pressler to dive fully into the hobby. She continued to be an avid reader throughout school, and shortly after graduating college she started her own “bookstagram,” or an Instagram page entirely dedicated to books. This social media platform gave her an easy way to connect with others online, and many of these connections became real life friendships. 

Pressler shared her story about how this initial foray into “bookstagram” eventually morphed into a physical space. After visiting a bunch of used bookstores in Nashville, she fell in love with the idea and told her boss at a coworking space. This casual conversation became a reality when her boss showed full support of her ideas and gave her the startup funds to chase after her goal. 

During the Zoom, Pressler showed her first business plan typed on a Google Doc. The document was relatively simple, listing the general idea for the business, the necessary costs and a wish list for the future of the store. Many of the ideas on the first business plan were later dropped during the process of starting the business. For example, Pressler first planned to name the store “The Libary” (placing an emphasis on “bar”) so it could work in combination with selling drinks. However, it was eventually decided that this name pigeonholed the business, and it would be a better business decision to keep the theme centered around books. Pressler shared that such changes are all a vital part of the process when building a business from the ground up. 

After extensive marketing and lead-up press through local newspapers and lifestyle magazines, Pressler finally hosted the grand opening of That’s Novel Books on February 28, 2020. The business only lasted a few weeks before having to temporarily shut down due to the pandemic. The circumstances were especially difficult for Pressler’s business model.  

“I spent all this time building this physical place for people to gather in, and suddenly nobody can gather anywhere,” Pressler said. “My business is unique in that it’s used books, so it’s difficult to sell them online because customers want to see the condition of the book.” 

Yet this challenge presented Pressler with a new opportunity to adapt and test her entrepreneurial skills. She came up with new ways to remain engaged with her costumers. She generated some business by offering book recommendations online based on books the customer enjoyed. The recommended book could then be obtained through contactless pickup. She also sold books outdoors during the summer to keep costumers engaged. 

Pressler shared a few pieces of important advice with students. She first encouraged them to genuinely share their ideas with others. If she had not had a conversation with her boss about opening a bookstore, her business would never have reached its current level of success. Additionally, Pressler told students to do things as safely as possible. There is often an expectation that small businesses can only start if someone throws themselves into it completely. However, Pressler found a way to make it work within the context of her current job at the coworking space, providing a safety net. 

At the end of the discussion, students were given the opportunity to ask Pressler questions. She shared information about how long it took to make a profit, how she comes up with new ideas for the store and how she is always looking to diversify – most recently by entering the world of audiobooks. One student asked if she used affirmations or a vision board to elevate her headspace when concentrating on achieving her goals. Pressler described her journaling habits and the use of a passion planner, which is oriented towards listing your goals and reflecting on your growth. Students left the Zoom feeling inspired by the entrepreneurial tips given by Pressler.