We had the chance to interview the founder of Damn Fine Bookstore a month ago. The interview took place in the bookstore. What an interesting conversation!
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Where did you grew up? Your educational and professional path in a few words?
I was not born very far from Lyon. I am from Bourg-en-Bresse. I did my schooling there and then I came to Lyon for college. I first studied medicine. But it didn’t work out. That’s why I studied nutrition. Therefore, I am a nutrician. I worked as one for 5 or 6 years. However, it wasn’t my thing. I took the time to think deeply about what I wanted to do. I always wanted to read. Yet, when you are in high school, people tell you that literary professions have no future. They suggest the scientific professions, which have a better one. So I did what I was told. As an adult, I decided to go back to what I wanted to do first. So I did an internship in a bookstore in Lyon. Just to find out what the job was like. I loved it. However, I discovered that I didn’t know enough about French literature. I was only reading in English. Moreover, I couldn’t find an English bookstore in Lyon. So I thought that there might be an opportunity for me.
How did you come up with the idea of an international bookstore in Lyon?
There was no other one in Lyon. Every time I was abroad, even in a non-English speaking country, there was a bookstore, even in a small village in Spain. I really liked the atmosphere and the fact that I could find books in other languages. I think that was really missing in Lyon.
How many languages do you speak?
I really speak French and English and also a little German.
I also have books in Spanish and Italian. However, I don’t speak Spanish and Italian myself.
How do you define sucess? Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entreprneur?
Go with the flow. You never know if it’s going to work or not. I don’t even know if it’s going to work here, because this is just the beginning. What I do know is that there will always be people who tell you it won’t work. For a long time I thought I wouldn’t do it because people told me it wouldn’t work. Yet, there are always people who believe in this project. I suggest you start doing your project, and then you’ll see.
How would you define feminism?
I think it’s wanting everyone to have the same rights and opportunities and to be seen equally.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Writers like Daphne du Maurier. She wrote gothic and children’s stories at a time when women could not make a living from their writing.
Were you afraid to start? Did you encounter many obstacles?
I was really scared. Everyone tells you it won’t work. My grandmother used to tell me that in our family we didn’t have any money. For her, only people who have money start a project like this. In my field, no one was there to help me. My peers told me that in order to have a bookstore in France, we had to have French books. They added that we had to be there for the French culture. Only a few people helped me. For example, a bookstore in Aix-en-Provence told me that unfortunately nobody would help me. However, they added that they had an international bookstore for 19 years and everything was fine. They told me they thought it was a brilliant idea. That was wonderful to hear! Other places helped me more with the financial aspect of my project.
what would be your advice to someone who wants to get started?
First, listen to both sides. There will always be people who tell you it’s a bad idea. Even if important people in your field tell you that your business is a bad idea, don’t listen to them. These people don’t know you. Maybe they don’t understand what you want to do. It’s a good idea to ask as many people as you can. There will always be someone who will tell you that your idea is great.
Second, be prepared to have no life once you start. I spend all my time here. You will never have a free mind. It takes a lot of time. You may be able to do it later, but not at first.