Founder of Little Readers
Abbie Hibler is the founder of Little Readers, a start-up book subscription company for children in Spain. Originally from Ohio, USA she has been involved in education and publishing for decades. She formed part of the original evaluation team improving Madrid’s first bilingual Public Schools. She completed her Master’s at the Complutense specializing in Bilingual Education. She has published a top-selling bilingual Children’s book entitled Barcelona for Tiny Travelers and is currently working on the sequel, Mallorca for Tiny Travelers.
During the quarantine, she saw post on Instagram asking a simple question, do you own a children’s book with a character in wheelchair on any page? Even though she and her children are book-lovers, her answer to that question was no. It was in that moment that she decided to make it her mission to bring more inclusive, inspiring and meaningful books into her children’s library. From that grew the inspiration for Little Readers, a monthly book box delivering books and fun educational activities to families all over Spain. She combines her years of experience as an educator, writer, and mom to curate boxes for native speakers and English-language learners alike.
What is your company all about?
Little Readers is an English Book Club for kids! Our goal is to get kids excited about reading and to diversify their libraries with inspiring, inclusive and modern-themed books.
Why did you choose to set up a business in Barcelona?
I live here, my husband is from Barcelona and we love this city!
How did you come up with the idea/concept for your business?
Actually, my mom did! She wanted to give my kids a monthly gift. So, she tried to subscribe to a similar style book subscription-based in the US. It was very expensive due to international shipping. There were issues such as not being able to pay for the customs in cash and the package not being at the pick-up point. So, I thought, why not create something that takes away these struggles by shipping from Spain, since this will cost less and not leave such a large ecological footprint!
Because of my background in education I realised that kids (and parents!) growing up with multiple languages would benefit from books with audio and literacy based activities. When I took a look at my kids’ books and realised that they were lacking diversity. They didn’t have any more modern themed books. I was missing topics such as taking care of the planet, moving to a new school, having different family-types.
So I put all this together and created Little Readers.
How do you market your business and which strategies have been the most successful?
Going to schools and parent Facebook groups.
How do you build a successful customer base in Barcelona?
Through schools and groups of moms.
If you hadn't relocated to Barcelona, would you have set up the same type of company in your home country?
No. I might have done something to promote Spanish language books…maybe?
Is it mandatory for you to speak Catalan and/or Spanish as an entrepreneur in Barcelona?
Yes! I order my boxes locally in Rubí. I interact with logistics companies all the time. For the books, however, I need English!
Is Covid19 affecting your business and if so, how do you deal with this?
I started the business during the lockdown, from my car. So I have yet to see what will happen once the light clears!
What are the advantages and disadvantages of setting up a business in Barcelona?
For me, one of the main disadvantages is the fact that getting all the information you need from someone can be incredibly difficult at times. Sharing the whole picture is seen here as politeness, instead of it being the norm. You really have to understand and follow all the bureaucratic and legal norms to be able to do business here. Things are not always clear, and I oftentimes feel like I could use help with these things. I think in the US, I would be more competent in understanding the norms and I would not have to rely on others so much. Also, the fees are another disadvantage!
What advice would you give someone who is interested in starting their own business in Barcelona?
Take advance of the available resources, there are many! Places like Barcelona Activa, networks for expats, etc!