Interview with Rachel Wood, Founder of Rare Birds Book Club

Rachel is an avid reader and has worked as a copywriter for the better part of the last decade. A little over a year ago she decided to set up the Rare Birds Book Club, a book subscription box with character.

The club creates a forum for women from across the UK to come together and share their thoughts, feelings and views on a book, which Rachel selects and mails out to all of her subscribers on a monthly basis.

We spoke to her about the inspiration behind the brand and how she worked to turn this idea into a fully-fledged successful business.

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Where did the idea for the Rare Birds Book Club come from?

It was sort of gradual rather than one big lightbulb moment. The short answer is I love to read and read a lot. People who know me know that about me and were very often asking for book recommendations. Book clubs were asking me for reading recommendations.

Just finding a good book was a challenge for a lot of people, and when you’re already struggling to make time to read having to spend ages finding a good book on top of that is just an impossible task.

Because I was reading so much I was naturally drawn to a book club – I love to talk (and talk and talk) about books I’ve read and loved. But in so many ways the classic book club didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to keep to that timeline – meetings were inconvenient – and was tired of reading the same old ‘big thing’. Reading is this thing people can take oddly seriously; that’s just not me.

I wanted a space where I could turn up and share your thoughts and have a laugh about it. I couldn’t find that so I created it.

Why did you call it the Rare Birds Book Club?

Well, I wanted “book club” to be in the name because that’s really what I see it as. It’s a book subscription but at its heart it really is a book club. Rare Birds is an old saying I’ve always liked and seemed to instinctively fit what I was trying to do.

A rare bird is literally described as ‘an exceptional person or thing; a rarity’. I love that. It’s the best kind of compliment. So when we’re describing rare birds we’re talking about both the books we read and the people who join the club.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

Asking a lot of questions. The business was a little idea that ran away with me – when I was first starting I didn’t have a clue how to get it done. I asked for help and information from everyone I knew and made a list of all the things I thought I might need to know and all the things I wanted the book club to be. What would my perfect book club look like?

Once I had that, I started working about how to go about getting that done. What started as a to do list eventually snowballed into a fully-fledged business.

What’s your USP?

I think there’s a lot of things that makes Rare Birds unique but here are what the two key selling points are. First the book club is about celebrating women’s writing. Every book we choose is written by a female author. And the stories are about women. In a world where the books women love to read are often sneered at or female authors taken less seriously than their male contemporaries, I think that’s important.

The second USP is that the book club really is about having a bit of fun. Reading is so serious sometimes! We’re all about just enjoying reading for the sake of reading and doing it in your own way. It’s deliberately flexible. You read at your own pace and when you’re done the forum is there waiting for you online. So if you live out in the countryside (and a lot of our reader’s do) you can still connect.

I really didn’t want this to be another thing on someone’s to do list. The whole point is that you’re taking some time to relax and enjoy yourself. And at the click of a button you can find a really inclusive, open community of other readers who are doing what you’re doing; enjoying discovering interesting new books and then being excited to share how you felt about it after.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Honestly, myself. When I was first starting the business I was very excited but I was also really scared about how it was going to go. What if I was a huge, horrible failure?

I had to figure out how to do everything and that also often meant I had to fight against that inner critic that likes to say things like you have no idea what you’re doing.

In my case that was true, I had no idea what I was doing. But what I came to learn was that in a way this was an advantage. I was coming to the table with a fresh perspective. I could offer something different and follow my instincts and then learn what I didn’t know.

That’s ongoing; I’m constantly having to put myself out there in new ways and discovering all the ways I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s often feel scary and uncomfortable. The fear doesn’t go away. But what’s on the other side of it is so rewarding that you kind of get used to feeling vulnerable – or get used to the idea that feeling vulnerable is just part of the process.

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to set up a business?

I thought there would be a magical moment where I woke up one day and just felt ready. If I had held out for that I have a feeling I’d still be sitting there waiting. You never really feel ready, you just have to do it.

My other advice would be that you don’t need to know everything – you can learn most things and what you can’t do you can find someone who can.

Whatever it is, start small. Start with a list of what you think you need to know or need to do. Then just go through the list. By the end you’ll know a lot and probably have the confidence you need to keep going.

You can find out more about the Rare Birds Book Club on their website