It’s remarkable for any small business to survive 1, 5, even 10 years. But 40?
As we observe Small Business Week, we also continue our year-long celebration of forty years as an independent publisher. Furthermore, we honor thirty-three years as a woman-owned small business.
Peachtree Publishers launched in 1977 as a family business under the leadership of Helen Elliott. Following Helen Elliott’s passing in 1983, the company was run by her children. Current President and Publisher Margaret Quinlin assumed majority ownership in 1990. Since then, Margaret has taken Peachtree from a general interest, heavily regional publisher to an award-winning publisher of books for young readers.
We recently asked Margaret for her take on small businesses and how Peachtree has found long-time success and satisfaction as an independent publisher.
How has Peachtree managed to thrive for forty years as a small business?
MQ: By pure determination, a good dose of luck, our love for the books, and our relationships.
We recently took the occasion of our 40th anniversary to look in-depth at why Peachtree continues to thrive, and it really does come down to our relationships. Many we’ve maintained for twenty+ years!
It’s also the detail and care with which we tend those relationships and our business—from the authors and illustrators whom we help develop creatively to each detail of our books to our customers and the librarians, educators, and booksellers who use and recommend our books. Peachtree is truly “rooted in relationships, grown with care,” and I think those values are critical for small businesses like ours to survive in a competitive marketplace.
Is it important to remain an independent business?
MQ: There is no more exciting experience than knowing you are in control and can make decisions for yourself. You sink or swim on your own ingenuity and passion as well as commitment to hard work. I strongly believe that publishing is an important cultural endeavor and as such, diverse voices across the country committed to publishing books for all kinds of readers is critically important.
In the early 1990s, you began narrowing your focus to children’s titles for Peachtree’s frontlist. Was that a strategic small business decision on your part?
MQ: Yes and no. The focus occurred naturally through the interests of the staff, and in particular, our friendship with Carmen Deedy as she developed into an extremely talented author. But we also recognized that as a small business, we had to focus our time and talents and marketing dollars. Even within the children’s category, it is important to have sufficient depth in an area. Without that, it’s difficult to make an impression.
How does Peachtree compete among bigger businesses, conglomerate publishers with bigger budgets?
MQ: It’s challenging, but we’re grateful for our relationships with influencers in the education, library and bookselling communities who recognize the importance of independent voices. Their word-of-mouth, trade reviews, and the awards they confer support us and help shine an invaluable light on our books. Earned media coverage is also critical as is social media and the use of our own platforms to deliver messages directly to our readers and other customers.
Peachtree has recently been certified as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE). What’s important about that designation?
MQ: We have been woman owned and operated for a total of thirty-three years. Several years ago I was encouraged to seek the official designation to make us eligible for federal dollars that are earmarked for woman-owned businesses. Small businesses can and should seek out whatever resources are available to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace.
What’s your vision for the future of Peachtree as a small business?
MQ: I want Peachtree to be a more intense, more successful version of its present self. We love who we are as a small business and are eyeing a bright future as an independent publisher. We are lucky that we have such a fantastic team of brilliant, energetic minds right here in Atlanta who love cultivating books and voices that educate, entertain, encourage, and endure.
Here’s to our future—may it bring more wonderful books for us to share.