The Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom & Ireland Limited

                                                                   

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BA Mentoring Programme

BA Mentoring is a free and confidential service offering one-to-one business mentoring for bookshop owners, allowing them to discuss their plans, queries and concerns with an experienced mentor. There are four mentors, each of them a highly experienced and award-winning bookseller in their own right; and each of them with their own particular strengths and areas of expertise. Since its inception in 2017, the mentoring programme has helped well over 150 booksellers from across the UK and Ireland.
 

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 over 30 independent bookshops since becoming a mentor in 2017. She helped establish Mostly Books in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, in 2006. The shop quickly attracted a loyal following in the community through a mixture of expert advice, an imaginative events programme, innovation, and a commitment to growing a reading for pleasure culture in local schools. Building up an enviable schools business from scratch and working to foster reading with so many young people led to Nicki becoming a children's author herself. She combines her bookselling business background and schools knowledge as well as insights from the publishing world and marketing in her mentoring work.

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Dee Lalljee
With nearly two decades of experience in community business management, Dee moved to The Bookery in Crediton in 2013 as it transitioned into a community-owned, not-for-profit independent bookshop. She spearheaded the business's growth and developed extensive outreach projects to champion literacy and wellbeing. The Bookery's accomplishments were recognised at the 2022 British Book Awards, where it secured an unprecedented double win as Independent Bookshop of the Year and Children's Bookseller of the Year. She is passionate about the transformative power of bookshops for social justice and positive change.

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Amber Harrison
Amber worked in sustainability in the corporate world for nearly two decades before co-founding FOLDE Dorset, which focuses on nature writing. Winner of the Nibbies Independent Bookshop of the Year for the South West in 2024, the bookshop runs on sustainable and purpose-led principles such as reducing waste, measuring its carbon footprint, and working with local suppliers. FOLDE Dorset was certified as a B Corp in 2024, meaning it meets high levels for its environmental and social impact. Amber continues to provide consultancy advice to UK and European organisations on their sustainability strategies, as well as championing the importance of sustainability for the publishing and bookselling sector.

 
"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: kate.gunning@booksellers.org.uk
 
“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