2012 in Review: GoneReading’s First Full Year in Business!

I can hardly believe it’s the end of 2012, an incredible year in the young history of GoneReading! And while I vacillate between thinking “we’re just getting started” and “it seems like we’ve been doing this forever,” I’ve never been more excited or optimistic about our ability to spread the magic of reading to the far corners of the developing world.

Book Journal - Books I've Read - Mini - Coral Cover

The top selling product on GoneReading.com in 2012: “The Books I’ve Read” Mini Book Journal

Most importantly, our central business strategy of thinking and acting like a Fortune 500 brand is beginning to bear fruit.  Commerce is a powerful tool, one that can do an awful lot of good in this world, as we are just beginning to see.

A few highlights from 2012:

  • We launched our new website early in the year, bringing warehousing, fulfillment and customer service in-house.  This move has dropped our cost-of-goods-sold to less than 50%, dramatically improving our gross income on each product sold.
  • At the same time we dramatically increased our product lineup to include an assortment of accessories and gifts, well beyond our in-house line of GoneReading brand apparel.  Although GoneReading brand t-shirts remain our number one category, our best selling items include some of these new accessories such as our mini-book journals (see photo).
  • We tested a wide range of marketing techniques, including public relations, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email marketing, direct-response advertising, affiliate marketing, partnership marketing and more.  We now know what drives our business, and just as important, what doesn’t.
  • We tested four new distribution channels by selling our products on Amazon, Biblio.com, via library fundraisers and book fairs.
  • We worked very hard at search engine optimization, and now rank extremely high for a variety of search terms.  Google delivered more shoppers to GoneReading.com than any other method, by far, in 2012.
  • We struck an important new partnership with Biblio.com, one of the world’s largest online booksellers and a great company with much of the same DNA as GoneReading.  They now sell all of our products on their website, and we donate 10% of the revenue directly to BiblioWorks, their charity which helps develop libraries in Bolivia.
  • We expanded our international shipping program to include more than 35 countries around the world.  Interestingly, Australia is our number one international destination, where we’re developing quite a following!
  • Hundreds of bloggers around the world wrote amazing things about GoneReading, and we received some wonderful press from the mainstream media (read some examples here).  We were particularly proud to top Wired Magazine’s list of Perfect Gifts for Reading Geeks!
  • We continue to run a lean and mean operation, with overhead of less than $200 per month, no salaries or wages, and a 100% volunteer staff including my wife and myself, who take no compensation from GoneReading.

Our volunteers

Speaking of volunteers, GoneReading would not exist without the incredible support of a variety of hard working folks who donate their time and expertise to our mission.  Much of our legal work, bookkeeping, product photography, creative development, blogging, design and much more is done with heart and talent (and at zero cost) thanks to our volunteers.  THANKS to each of you, GoneReading is on the road to changing the world!

Our charitable giving

As you undoubtedly know, GoneReading is in the business of funding non-profits that spread the magic of reading in the developing world.  Our priority is to provide large-scale funding to these organizations, something that comes at the expense of the short-term.  We’re making big investments right now that will pay dividends for many years to come, even though this hurts our short-term profits.

So even though we did NOT turn a profit in 2012, our first full year in business, we managed to pay out almost $5,000 to our charitable partners in 2012, up from $1,500 in 2011.  Look for this figure to continue a similar growth trend for years to come.

Expanding in 2013

We expect another big growth year in 2013, both in revenue and in our charitable giving.  To achieve this growth my wife and I plan to inject another $50,000 into the company next year to fund the following:
  • A significant product catalog expansion along a defined product strategy.  Shoppers love our products, but we simply don’t offer enough of a selection to satisfy the majority of them.  Expect GoneReading’s product selection to double or triple in size in the coming year.
  • Google delivers more traffic to our website than any other source, but it’s time to bring in the experts to take us to the next level.  We will retain a superstar search engine optimization expert soon to fuel our growth.
  • We’re also hoping to hire a comparison-shopping engine consultancy to optimize our listings on Amazon and expand our distribution through a variety of other sellers (Buy.com, Barnes & Noble, eBay, Google Shopping and more).

So it’s been an exciting year, but we’re just getting started.  Thanks for following us along this far, and I hope you will continue to do so in the future.

Happy Reading!

Bradley S. Wirz, Founder & CEO