Folio founder, 24, launches curated online bookstore – TechCrunch
In the midst of TechCrunch Disrupt, hundreds of founders will be making a video call in Startup Alley, eager to share what sets their business apart. But the background video of 24-year-old Clare Carroll speaks for itself when she calls from her New York apartment, which also serves as a stash for the hundreds of books she sells online.
Just a few months ago, the recent Marquette University graduate left her consulting role at IBM to found Folio, an online bookstore that helps Gen Z and Millennial readers discover (and then buy) their next favorite books.
Carroll is a full-fledged company that takes care of everything from website design and order packaging, social media marketing and accounting. But as she rediscovered her love of reading in quarantine, Carroll realized her peers weren’t sure where to turn for book recommendations.
âThere are benefits to goodreads, but the user interface hasn’t been updated since Amazon bought it,â says Carroll – and, at least judging by the image from TechCrunch’s article on the acquisition of eight years ago, she is not wrong. âThe problem of helping people rediscover their love for books really touched me. I couldn’t find something I wanted online, and I couldn’t believe it didn’t exist: a cool online bookstore. I was really thinking about what I wanted to get out of my career, so I was like, okay, fuck, I guess I’ll get there.
Companies like Bookshop.org and Libro.fm have proven that bookworms want an alternative to buying books on Amazon, and The Storygraph is trying to build the next Goodreads.
But Folio sits somewhere in the middle, trying to solve the discovery while helping both publishers and independent booksellers. Right now, Folio has around 200 handpicked books in stock, including trendy hits like “Detransition, Baby” by Torrey Peters, “Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller and “Crying in H-Mart. “by Michelle Zauner.
âWe don’t try to have all the books in stock. We never will, âCarroll said. âEven though a book targets my 18-30 demographic, skewing women, we still scan and pre-select for quality. We’ll probably never have more than 1,000 different books.
Much of Folio’s inventory comes direct from publishers, which means that a book will cost, on average, around $ 18 to $ 20. âWe do not fall into the Amazonian trap of the genre, try to bring the price down as low as possible. I believe in paying artists for their work, and devaluing books does no one any favors, âsays Carroll. But other titles are bought on overstock – that means if a physical store doesn’t sell all of the copies it purchases, the books can be returned to a wholesaler, who then sells them at a discount to companies like Folio.
Folio has only been online since August – Carroll launched the company in May this year – but thanks to collaborations with influencers, a Affiliate Program, a Reading Club, and it’s addicting book suggestion quizCarroll says the company has developed an enthusiastic consumer base. Although she declined to share sales figures for now, she said about 30% of customers post about their purchase on social media and the company has many loyal customers.
âWe really think of ourselves as the Sephora of the books,â Carroll says. âYou walk in, you navigate and there are other options, but you’re not completely overwhelmed. Whatever you end up there, someone else has already said, âYeah, it’s worth it. “