The Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom & Ireland Limited


BA-Mentoring-Logo.pngUnwin Charitable Trust

BA Mentoring Programme

In 2017, the BA began working in partnership with the Unwin Charitable Trust (UCT) to provide a free mentoring programme for independent BA members. The BA itself now coordinates the programme, though it continues to be supported by the outstanding generosity of the Trust.

Over the years, more than 150 booksellers from across the UK and Ireland have benefited from the services of a dedicated mentor, allowing them to discuss their business plans, queries and concerns in complete confidence and without requiring time away from their shops. The mentors are all highly experienced and award-winning booksellers.

Meet the Mentors

Sheila O'Reilly 

Sheila O’Reilly

Sheila has been in bookselling for over 25 years. Under her ownership, Dulwich Books was voted best independent bookshop in the UK & Ireland. A former BA Council member, Sheila is now the Project Manager for the BA Learning Skills Hub. She sits on the Bookselling Ireland committee and is a board member of the European and International Booksellers Federation. She has been a bookshop mentor since 2017.

Patrick Neale 

Patrick Neale

Patrick has worked for Sainsbury’s and Waterstones as a store manager and became an independent bookseller in 2001. He is the tutor on the BA's Introduction to Bookselling Course; co-author of the BA's guide How to Start and Run a Bookshop; an award-winning bookseller; and a former BA President. He continues to fight the cause for independent bookselling, knowing just how much independent bookshops enrich every community that has one.

Nicki Thornton
Nicki Thornton
Nicki has worked with more than 30 independent bookshops since becoming a mentor in 2017. In 2006 she established Mostly Books in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, which went on to win the inaugural Best New Bookshop Award at the Nibbies (British Book Awards). Mostly Books built up an enviable schools business from scratch and Nicki used her knowledge of children's reading to launch her own writing career with the bestselling The Last Chance Hotel series.



Dee Lalljee
Dee worked in community business and as a counsellor for 20 years before moving into community bookselling at The Bookery, a not-for-profit indie bookshop in Devon. She managed the growth and development of the business and extensive outreach projects supporting literacy and wellbeing, achieving an unprecedented double win at the 2022 British Book Awards for both Independent Bookshop of the Year and Children’s Bookseller of the Year.
"I would thoroughly recommend all booksellers take up this offer, however long they have been in the business.” – Caxton Books

The mentoring programme is designed to cater for booksellers at any stage of their career. Whether you are brand new to bookselling, looking to develop or expand your offer or need some practical ideas to turn your business around, then your dedicated mentor can help.

To arrange for mentoring, or to find out more, please contact the programme’s coordinator at the BA:
“I would recommend the mentorship programme to anyone opening their own bookshop. As a newbie bookseller, it was a dream to be able to bounce ideas off my mentor, an established manager and bookshop owner who really has seen it all. Mentoring offered me insights tailored to the needs of the bookshop and business I wanted to build. I am so grateful to my mentor and to the BA for giving Backstory the very best start.” - Tom Rowley, Backstory