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How Many Sugars in Your Tea?

Samantha Stilson

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The first day I walked into Rebound Bookstore for my senior year internship, my employer didn’t recognize me. I had the good fortune to realize this a few moments into this first professional encounter, scrambling to introduce myself with more detail, but could not save myself from its terribly awkward start. A great tragedy. What can you do?

 

The moment after my identity was realized, I was welcomed into the Rebound Crew. Joel and Toni, my intern supervisors, have been married for 28 years, own and run Rebound, and have afternoon tea with fantastically scandalous amounts of sugar. My kind of people. The shop, a total entity of its own, is fairly magical. It’s home to two finches and comfortably houses rather more books than were probably intended for it. My kind of place. I would come to look forward to each day I spent at Rebound, learning the shop, drinking tea, and slowly becoming magical.

 

My first task, however, had less to do do with tea and more to do with exercise. Rebound helps to put on a literature festival in San Rafael, Litquake, every year, and my feet and I were thrust into the middle of it. It was through planning for and executing Litquake that I learned about many important aspects of running a successful business, including connection with the locals, persistence, persistence, persistence, and ice cream. Before working with Joel, I assumed most of the publicity for Litquake would be done online, perhaps through blast emails or a book lover’s forum. But after walking into almost every store on San Rafael’s Fourth Street, and plenty more in Terra Linda, I began to expand my perception of marketing. I was shocked that Joel was on a first name basis with over half of the business owners we visited on Fourth Street, and many were happy to put Litquake posters in their windows or break rooms. Clearly they didn’t mind doing him the favor, especially because he was standing directly in front of them, and he would help them market their own business by letting them be a part of his event. The strategy seemed to be just as effective, if not more so, than posts online. Together, he and I probably walked the entire length of west end Fourth Street three times (both ways!) giving out posters, flyers, pamphlets, and bookmarks to both local businesses and people we ran into on the street.

 

Despite Joel’s copious connections, we and our flyers were initially turned down many times. But, as I have come to learn, it is truly the moment right after the original rejection that makes or breaks you. In learning to adopt the infallible attitude that everyone secretly craved Litquake information, and making up excuses for them to take what I had, I broke through a marketing conundrum that had stumped me for years: the ignored email. Forget “following up”. I’ll show up at your house (or business, really). It is incredibly difficult for people to ignore your event when it is your third visit and you just printed out more flyers.

 

Not surprisingly, walking all over Fourth Street, especially in California’s autumn, can be quite the exhausting endeavor. And, as any good advertiser knows, nobody wants to listen to a hot mess of an intern talk about books. Therefore, as a necessary and professional measure, upon reaching the other end of Fourth Street, Joel and I got ice cream (don’t tell Toni). It was the best part of my whole day. Quite a fitting way to end a blog post. Our walk back to the shop was slightly more relaxed as we had ice cream in tow and generally did the busier side of the street first.

 

Though I feel like the internship is something I have been doing for months, I realize that I still have most of this academic year ahead of me. It’s a fact that excites me, as I think about the skills I can learn and the tea I can drink. I imagine (and hope) that I’ll be ranting on about something entirely different in the next blog, learning about new things in new ways. Until then, I will continue walking, talking, and growing my magic. Visit Rebound if you don’t believe me.

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How Many Sugars in Your Tea?