Binc Announces First Participants in National BIPOC Bookstore Incubator Program

ANN ARBOR, MI—Twelve aspiring and new bookstore owners from California to Florida were selected as the first cohort of BincTank, the Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation’s business incubator pilot program to support BIPOC-owned retail bookselling businesses that are physically located in their community. The 12 entrepreneurs, selected according to predetermined criteria and anonymously from a pool of 48 applications, recently gathered for an in-person orientation and will begin Professional Bookselling School later this month.

Eligible entrepreneurs were either working toward opening a store or had a store that had been open no more than six months from the time of application.

“We are so proud to support this first group of entrepreneurs dedicated to opening bookstores in their community,” said Pam French, executive director of Binc. “They share our commitment to and passion for closing the diversity gap in bookstore ownership, and we can’t wait to visit their stores.”

The entrepreneurs participating in the cohort are:

Courtney Bledsoe will soon open a Black woman-owned bookstore in Chicago focused on fostering a love of reading, human connections, and the sharing of ideas across backgrounds. Authors of color are at the center of the store’s work.

Aysia Brown recently opened Protagonist Black, an independent bookstore in Fontana, California, specializing in culturally diverse books and cocktails pairings. It carries a blend of fiction and nonfiction books for all ages written exclusively by BIPOC authors, with an emphasis on Black authors and creators.

Diana Dominguez recently opened Más Libritos Bookstore in Springdale, Arkansas, to increase access to stories of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities written exclusively by BIPOC writers.

Robert Eckman plans to open a bookstore in Belleville, Illinois, committed to the free exchange of ideas, diverse perspectives and experiences and supporting the community of readers and authors of which we are a part. The store will be in a geographic “book desert” that has suffered from systemic racism for generations.

Alma Guzman plans to open a bookmobile in southeast Los Angeles to amplify the stories of BIPOC authors and increase access to books in Spanish. Guzman currently works in bookstore operations for LA librería, a bookstore that specializes in literature in Spanish for kids.

Gwendolyn Henderson recently opened Black English Bookstore, a store in Tampa, Florida, that promotes reading culture, fosters curiosity, provides books to young readers through individual and corporate sponsorship, highlights Historically Black Colleges and Universities alumni authors, and “proudly liberates” banned titles.

Kenya Kirkman plans to open a bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, dedicated to nurturing the love of reading and learning in children from 0-12. The store will focus on books, resources and events that speak to the lived experiences and well-being of BIPOC families.

Ashley Mireles-Guerrero plans to open a bookstore in Fresno, California, to cultivate a community that learns to see beyond book covers and societal judgments by amplifying marginalized voices, prioritizing works by women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, Disabled, Neurodivergent, and underrepresented authors.

Angie Nixon recently opened Café Resistance Bookstore, a community space in Jacksonville, Florida, dedicated to building a path to power for the Black community by improving literacy rates, decreasing health disparities, reinvigorating the village and improving the overall quality of life. She is the co-author of three comic books.

Ciona Rouse plans to open a bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee, to create authentic community by providing a curated collection of poetry-centric books & libations for those interested in liberation through literature.

Jay Williams opened Next Chapter Books in Detroit, Michigan, a neighborhood bookstore committed to offering affordability through a selection of new and secondhand books highlighting the work of local authors and authors of color, and to providing a space that invites human connection, nurtures a love for reading, and creates investment in our community.

Kevin Zambrano plans to open a bookstore in Brooklyn to advance social change through the access of literature to residents while simultaneously strengthening the local economy, amplifying Latinx voices and increasing queer visibility. Zambrano currently works in the publishing industry.

“These applicants bring a great diversity of experience, skills and background to BincTank from community organizing, bookselling and politics to working in the publishing industry, teaching and writing books,” said Ken White, BincTank program manager. “They come from across the country in communities large and small, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Together we will work to increase the number of BIPOC-owned bookstores.”

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The Book Industry Charitable Foundation

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