Sky Cow Books
E-commerce Bookstore, 2005-2007
Earnest but ill-fated early entrepreneurial attempt.
Sky Cow Books was an e-commerce new bookstore, specializing in theology and literary fiction.
The seeds of its downfall were present from the beginning: I didn't have a business plan of any sort, and the basic idea was to take everything I liked about other bookstores and do it slightly better. I liked bookstores that highly curated their offerings (Byron Borger's amazing Hearts & Minds, the now-defunct Discerning Reader, catalog bookseller Bas Bleu), so I was going to curate all the books. I liked the cheap prices on Amazon, so I was going to compete on price. It didn't occur to me that you could do one or the other, but not both.
The very best things to come out of Sky Cow were the parts contributed by other people. My first Moscow employer, Mark Beauchamp, made a block print (right) to stamp onto the kraft mailing envelopes. The name of the store was taken by a bit of doggerel generously offered to the project by Nate Wilson: The sky cow stands ready for milking / the world an eager bucket waits. And my then co-worker Laura made a painting of the logo, which was the first time I clued in to the fact that she might like me!
My dad and brother came out to help me run the book table at Trinity Fest in 2007.
Unfortunately the business itself was completely unsound, and left me in a pile of debt and the danger of slowly ruining my reputation with longer shipment times and general spottiness. After a few years I shut it down.
It paved the way for future projects: I realized that when I started I should have a very clear vision for an unmet need a business should serve, and some kind of business plan.