Books, Advocacy and Community: A Kansas entrepreneur’s vision for a better world

Danny Caine

Danny Caine never thought his job at a small bookshop in a college town would lead him down a path of entrepreneurship and antitrust advocacy. However, the community the previous owner of Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan. fostered really resonated with Danny who feels as though the bookstore is a vehicle for positive change and community enrichment. In 2017, he was able to purchase the shop through a seller-financed loan. 

Danny has since carried on this employee ownership model, offering his employees minority shares of the shop. A writer and a poet himself, he has become a huge advocate for small businesses and anti-monopolistic practices. To date, he has written two books to educate people on why resisting large corporations is so important to keeping communities intact. 

“You can’t just assume people will know the importance of shopping locally and divesting from big corporations. Us business owners have to tell our own stories in a compelling way,” he says, “We've seen some durability and success in the face of Amazon, but it's only because we're willing to talk with our customers about anti-competitive practices and antitrust policies. The conversations have been amazing. And the support has been really overwhelming.”

In fact, when a large chain bookstore opened across the street from the shop, many believed the Raven would not survive. However, because of the support Danny and other local business owners were able to rally, the new bookstore eventually closed and the small business owners were able to maintain their foot traffic.

Small businesses like Danny’s are important to keeping communities alive and provide so much more to their neighborhoods than just a place to shop. In response to the anti-transgender legislation they were seeing in Kansas and across America, Danny and his staff have implemented the Perfectly Queer Little Library, a section of their store where LGBTQ+ youths can find free books written by LGBTQ+ authors with LGBTQ+ protagonists that have been donated by members of the community. 

Danny explains, “It’s essential that the young people in our community can find themselves in literature. Books should be a safe space where people can escape to and explore their identity and community.”

The team at the Raven Bookstore are well adept at pivoting the business in order to meet the community’s needs. In 2020, Danny moved all of the business online, delivering 75 books per day five days a week all around town. Not only did this keep his team and his customers safe, but it was also incredible for Danny’s bottom line. In 2021, he moved the Raven Bookstore to a larger space and has been able to double both his inventory and sales. The legacy of his pandemic era pivot still remains as now 20% of his sales come from online purchases. 

Danny explains, “As a business owner, sometimes there is an impulse to not speak out and keep your beliefs to yourself in order not to offend anybody, but I have really found it to be our greatest strength. As small business owners, we have a really important point of view and voice in our community. I am now using my small business as a tool for a fight for a better world, and I encourage others to do the same.”

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