We had the good fortune of connecting with Jhoanna Belfer and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jhoanna, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Taking risks, for me, is a necessary part of feeling alive and challenged in my career and in my life. When I don’t feel like I’m taking a risk, when I feel too comfortable and safe, I know that it’s time to push myself to do something different, to expand into a new role, seek new avenues for growth, or take on a new project.

That’s not to say that I blindly take risks with my career or my life. I’m a fairly cautious person who is very attuned to the possibilities of failure and things going wrong. I manage the risk by doing lots of research before I undertake a new project or role, by asking for advice from those who have gone before me, and by taking small steps to try out my idea.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I’m the owner and founder of Bel Canto Books, an indie bookstore in Long Beach CA. Our mission is to spread our love of reading and storytelling, in particular celebrating books by women and people of color. Becoming an indie bookstore owner, especially in a global pandemic, has taught me about resiliency and flexibility. We’ve managed to survive, and even thrive, in this challenging economic landscape by focusing on how we can best serve our readers, regardless of what outside forces throw at us.

When we had to close down our brick-and-mortar store for six weeks last spring, we quickly shifted to a book concierge program that offered free local delivery, so that we could still provide the personalized book recommendations that we’ve become known for, but in a way that felt safe and special for customers.

As things have changed with the pandemic, we’ve had to adapt to the next “new normal,” whether that was figuring out how to make our store windows shoppable while we were still closed to in-person shopping, redesigning our store layout each time our local restrictions changed or lifted, or learning how to beef up our online presence with virtual author events, online book club meetings, and an expanded book selection.

We’re now open for in-person shopping, and it’s so gratifying to meet readers in person who learned about us through our social media or an online event and see them interact with the books we’ve chosen for the store. Our mission is to spread a love of reading and storytelling by focusing on work by women and people of color, and it has been such a joy to hear how we turned readers onto a new book or author or helped them stay connected with inspiration and curiosity.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My perfect long weekend in Long Beach:

Stay aboard the Queen Mary

Eat at Michaels Downtown, Ellie’s or Sir Winston’s (on the Queen Mary)

Do a gondola ride through the canals of Naples with Gondola Getaway (http://www.gondolagetawayinc.com/)

Take a Cheese Addict 101 class (aka “Cheese Lover’s Dinner”) at Cheese Addiction (http://www.cheeseaddiction.com/)

Hear a concert at the Long Beach Terrace Theater (https://www.longbeachcc.com/our-facilities/theaters/terrace-theater/)

Rent a bike and ride along the beach path from Naples to the Long Beach Aquarium, and then take the water taxi back

Visit Retro Row (4th Street between Junipero and Cherry) for the best indie shopping, eating and entertainment

Take in the panoramic view at Hilltop Park in Signal Hill

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m a bookstore owner, so of course I have to give a shoutout to a book: Chris Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup first gave me the framework and confidence to try my hand at entrepreneurship, by giving me practical advice on how to determine my business superpower, market it to family and friends, and test it in the real world.

Website: https://belcantobooks.net/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/belcantobooks/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jhoannabelfer/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/belcantobooks/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/belcantobooks

Other: https://linktr.ee/belcantobooks https://bookshop.org/shop/belcantobooks https://libro.fm/belcantobooks

Image Credits
Nannette Ricaforte

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