September 15th through October 15th is Latinx Heritage Month, and to celebrate today we are highlighting an Afro-Latina entrepreneur, Noëlle Santos! Noëlle is the owner and founder of The Lit. Bar, the only independent bookstore in the Bronx. Read on to learn more about how she created her business.
Noëlle Santos was born and raised in the Soundview neighborhood of the Bronx borough of New York City and got a bachelor’s degree in business/accounting and a master’s degree in human resources management from Lehman college in 2009 and 2012 respectively. After getting her degrees Noëlle worked at an IT firm in Tribeca making six figures a year. An internal struggle popped up around that time, where she began to view herself as a “coward” for measuring her success by how far from the Bronx she got. She wanted to reconnect to her hometown.
She views books as her tool for economic mobility and as her main form of entertainment as a child. When she learned in 2014 that the only bookstore in the Bronx, a Barnes and Noble bookstore serving over 1 million residents, was going to be shut down, she was horrified by the prospect of those very tools, that helped her so much, being taken away from children and teenagers in the Bronx. So, she did something about it. She joined over 3,000 protestors to sign a petition demanding the building owners to extend the bookstore’s lease. The petition was successful, but the lease was only extended for another two years, with Barnes and Noble closing its doors in 2016. The Bronx was left without any bookstores and Noëlle resolved to do something about that.
Over the next two years Noëlle was determined to learn everything she could about running a bookstore. After work she would get on the train and go to bookstores in Brooklyn. Noëlle asked to work for free to gain a deeper understanding of what goes into running a bookstore. She did this for over two and a half years while running an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to fund the creation of her bookstore. On April 27th of 2019, National Indie Bookstore Day, Noëlle opened The Lit. Bar, a combination bookstore, wine bar, and community space in the Bronx, which to this day remains the only brick-and-mortar bookstore in the borough.
If you’re interested in learning more about Noëlle’s journey, you can listen to a podcast interview with her done by Essence magazine here: https://www.essence.com/news/money-career/noelle-santos-the-lit-bar-bookstore/ If you have an interest in owning your own business and want guidance or advice, make an appointment with one of our Career Coaches
Photo courtesy of Noëlle Santos – https://www.linkedin.com/in/1stnoelle/