Black Owned Business Series Vol. 2 – Ancestry Books from SwayHeavy Productions on Vimeo.
Small business owners Chaun Webster and Verna Wong knew their neighborhood in North Minneapolis was missing something — something they call a “third place,” a gathering space between home and work. They decided that third place could be a bookstore, and Ancestry Books was born.
They first envisioned Ancestry Books as a pop-up business. However, an overwhelming and enthusiastic response to their Kickstarter forced them to think bigger. North Minneapolis, it appeared, craved something more permanent than a pop-up. Webster and Wong enlisted the community in refurbishing a run-down storefront, and soon their neighbors were pouring in to help tear out carpet, sand bookshelves, and paint walls. That shared ownership of the space, Webster says, has been a huge player in the success of the bookstore.
Webster has always been a book lover. Reading with his mother was a big part of his childhood, and literature captured his imagination from a young age. His belief in the transformative power of reading fuels his small business, which showcases the writing of indigenous authors and authors of color.
It’s not surprising, then, that Webster stresses the importance of having passion for your work. “You can’t do work like this and not think it’s important,” he explains. He also urges other small business owners to connect with peers in their industry and seek advice from experienced business owners. That guidance, he says, is what helped him navigate challenging hurdles like asking investors for money.
Community-driven small businesses like Ancestry Books are important, Webster says, “not just because people need literature, but because we need the space—cognitively and physically—to imagine.”
Watch the video for a closer look at how Ancestry Books is enriching North Minneapolis in inspiring, exciting ways.