The Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom & Ireland Limited

Booksellers Association Launches BA Mentoring

The Booksellers Association (BA) has announced the launch of BA Mentoring, continuing the legacy of its work with the Unwin Charitable Trust (UCT).
The BA and UCT have worked in partnership since 2017 to provide a free mentoring programme for independent BA members. Over the years, many booksellers from across the UK and Ireland have benefited from the services of a dedicated mentor, allowing them to discuss their business plans, queries and concerns in complete confidence and without requiring time away from their shops. The mentors are all highly experienced and award-winning booksellers.
From 1 July 2023 the coordination of the mentoring scheme will be handled in-house by the BA, under the new name BA Mentoring.
BA Mentoring will come under the umbrella of BA Learning, the BA’s learning and development programme for booksellers, managed by Kate Gunning, Head of Membership Development. The mentoring service will remain available and free to all independent members of the BA and all of the existing mentors will be retained.
The Booksellers Association has paid tribute to the Unwin Charitable Trust for its unflagging support of this invaluable initiative over the years. The Trust’s continuing generosity means that booksellers will be able to benefit from the mentoring service in the years to come.
Tom Rowley, owner of Backstory in Balham, London, and a recent participant in the mentoring project, commented: “I would recommend the mentorship programme to anyone opening their own bookshop. As a newbie bookseller, it was a dream to be able to bounce ideas off my mentor, an established manager and bookshop owner who really has seen it all. It continued seamlessly from the BA's one-day Introduction to Bookselling course and offered me insights tailored to the needs of the bookshop and business I wanted to build. I am so grateful to my mentor and to the BA for giving Backstory the very best start.”
Merlin Unwin, Chair of Trustees of the Unwin Charitable Trust, said: “The UCT bookseller mentoring scheme has been running for many years under the management of Margaret Wilson, and has successfully provided independent booksellers with practical, financial, marketing, presentational and employment advice. The success of the scheme has now outgrown what the UCT is able to offer and we are delighted to be able to hand over the management of it to the BA, with whom we have greatly enjoyed working from the beginning. With the BA’s greater access to the industry and with the continued support from the original mentors, the BA will build the scheme and will be adding more contact and more ideas to the programme. To facilitate the transition the UCT has provided funding for the next five years and we look forward to the bookshop mentoring scheme going from strength to strength.”
Meryl Halls, Managing Director at The Booksellers Association, said: “We are thrilled by the commitment of UCT on the generous ongoing provision of bookseller mentoring for independent booksellers. It’s been such a pleasure to work with the UCT team over the years, and to see the positive impact the mentoring has had on booksellers – especially through the pandemic, and into the cost-of-living crisis. UCT have been far-sighted and compassionate partners for many years, and we look forward to being able to carry on their great work for bookshops into the future.
For more information about mentoring and BA Learning in general, please contact Kate Gunning:
About BA Learning
BA Learning is the learning and development programme of the Booksellers Association, and has the following strands:
BA Welcome: supports booksellers as they plan and open their bookshops. Includes the publication Starting a Bookshop; the one-day Introduction to Bookselling course (UK and Irish versions); a new programme of work experience in bookshops; and access to paid consultancy ad hoc.
BA Skills Hub: an online learning platform with more than 100 modules, including podcasts, video tutorials and training packages. Content is based on bookseller demand, and on achieving practical outcomes.  
BA Mentoring: this free and confidential service offers one-to-one business mentoring for bookshop owners, allowing them to discuss their plans, queries and concerns with an experienced mentor.
BA Coaching: offers group coaching to cohorts of eight booksellers in three categories: Bookshop Owners, Emerging Leaders and Bookshop Managers. The coaching programme is designed to help booksellers focus on their strategic preparedness and personal skills to enable them to be better leaders and to guide their bookshop businesses more effectively.
BAseline: an annual benchmarking exercise for independent booksellers which allows them to analyse their businesses and assess how they have performed in relation to other participating bookshops.