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Nyshell Lawrence hosts an event at her store, Socialight Society.

I’ve Added Multiple Revenue Streams to My Small Business — Here’s Why and How I Balance It All

Learn how this local bookstore owner manages different revenue streams to support her business goals without taking away from her core mission (or burning herself out).

May 13, 2024 5 min readSmall Business
Photo of Nyshell Lawrence
Nyshell Lawrence

Founder of Socialight Society

I wish I could tell you that passion always leads to a profitable business. 

Unfortunately, as I’ve learned firsthand, that’s not automatically the case. I turned my lifelong love of reading and desire to support Black women into Socialight Society, a local bookshop in Lansing, Michigan, that caters to Black women who often lack representation in traditional bookstores. 

But, no matter how passionate I am about the books I curate or the Black authors I feature, profit margins in bookselling are just too small these days to achieve success from that alone. 

Instead of giving up on my dream, I decided to build out multiple revenue streams. In addition to selling books, I started selling gifts and custom merchandise. I opened up our space for event rentals, and we’ve since hosted everyone and everything from a launch party for a self-published author to community groups having business mixers or workshops. 

I also offer creative consultations to help people brainstorm their business ideas, design their websites or other business assets, or work toward their self-publishing goals.

Rather than taking away from my core business, these revenue streams have given me the freedom to run my bookstore the way I want without having to stress as much about income.

I now have confidence I’ll always at least be able to pay rent thanks to these backup resources, so I can focus more on how I want to serve my community. Plus, by remaining flexible about how I make money, I feel confident my business will be able to weather changing economic conditions and customer preferences.

My philosophy is: If you have the capacity to expand your business, do so. It can bring in more revenue and brand awareness, giving you a better chance of gaining new customers.

Here’s how I chose the right revenue streams for my business and how I balance them all while ensuring my core vision doesn’t suffer.

I consider where my resources meet my customers’ needs

Adding new revenue streams can quickly feel like starting another business, requiring you to learn new skills, invest in additional resources, or spend a ton of time marketing to an additional customer base. As a one-woman show, that’s the last thing I wanted.

To make it easier on myself, I looked for the natural overlap of my skills, resources, and my customers’ needs. For example, people would regularly come into the bookstore and tell me about their struggles with publishing their own books or starting their own businesses.

I had prior experience doing visual branding and website design as a side hustle, plus plenty of marketing, business, and publishing knowledge from running Socialight Society, so I naturally started offering creative consulting services.

Similarly, people would ask me if they could host events in the bookshop. Since foot traffic is light several days a week, it was an easy choice to offer it up for rentals.

My community has been such a part of my support system, and I’m a big proponent of creating space for authors and artists local to Lansing or Michigan. So when I started receiving a lot of inquiries from local authors who would like to have their books on my shelves, I started regularly hosting events that not only highlight new authors but also market the store.

I also like to make sure every new revenue stream aligns with my business's larger vision and purpose. A big part of what we do with the bookstore is amplify stories and voices that are traditionally underrepresented — which is also something I’m able to do through creative consulting when I’m helping a business owner with a website that tells their story, or a new author with their personal brand. 

We’re all about building community, which extends to opening our space up for folks to gather. Having this alignment makes it easier to market all of these different revenue streams in a natural and cohesive way (more on that in a minute). 

You have to do what makes sense for you, your customers, and your business. I don’t think it would be a no-brainer for every bookstore to offer website services, but because it’s something I have a background in and a problem my customers need solved, it makes sense for me. 

Build relationships with your customers, listen to what they truly need, and consider all of the different ways you have the capacity to support them. 

I focus my marketing on the core business

When your business has multiple offerings, it can be easy for your marketing to feel scattered. I wanted to be mindful that I wasn’t distracting from the books and from our core mission of elevating Black authors by also sharing my other services. 

That’s why, first and foremost, my social channels and email marketing focus on promoting books by Black authors and community events we’re hosting that center around Black women. 

When it’s organically aligned with that mission, I’ll also sprinkle in information about our other offerings. For example, when someone hosted a business mixer for Black female entrepreneurs at the shop, I made sure to share some pictures on our Instagram, along with information on how to book the space for yourself. It showed us holding space for Black women in line with our mission, and also gave us the chance to promote another revenue stream. 

Outside of that, I mostly market other revenue streams through one-on-one interactions. A customer will come in and tell me about how they’re struggling to self-publish or how they need social media help for their business, and I’ll mention my consultation services. 

An author will reach out about getting their new book on my shelves, and I’ll mention the option of hosting a launch party. It’s not the most flashy marketing tactic, but it’s simple and works for me — and means I don’t have to take focus away from my main business on social media.

I’m mindful of not burning myself out

I won’t sugarcoat it: Managing additional revenue streams when you’re already running a business creates more work. I wish I could tell you I have a secret to balancing it all with grace, but in truth, I’ve had my fair share of nights working past midnight to get it all done (especially considering I’m a mom, too). Sometimes, to see your dream become a reality, you just have to do what needs to be done.

I am constantly mindful of ensuring that I don’t push myself to the edge of burnout. I have a clear understanding of how many consulting clients or events I can manage on any given week, and I’ve had to turn people away or suggest a different time frame when I knew an opportunity would push me beyond my limits. 

Even if the additional money would be nice, saying “no” in those moments means I can give 100 percent to the projects I do take on, which will be a stronger reflection of the business and lead to more customers..  

It’s also important to ground yourself in solid systems for your primary business before adding other things to the mix. I work at the bookstore Wednesday through Saturday and am able to use downtime during those days to do branding work. The shop is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, which gives us natural times to offer event rentals and gives me admin days. It’s pretty simple, but these boundaries of how different revenue streams fit into my days help me manage everything. 

I imagine that things will shift and change as we grow. Eventually, I’ll be able to hire more employees, which will open up more space for me to offer other services. I may one day find that my customers need something different than what I originally thought or that one of my secondary revenue streams is starting to take away from the primary business. 

My goal is to always keep the cement wet so I can adjust based on what works for me, my customers, and my overall business goals.

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