Jeannine Cook: Harriett’s Bookshop

A recent article from Technically Media written by Michael Butler focuses on the owner of Harriett’s Bookshop, Jeannine Cook in which she explains how she uses resilience to write her own story. She explains that her Trinidadian upbringing has had a major effect on her views of entrepreneurship.

The article begins explaining Cook’s mother’s emigration to the United States and her experience with entrepreneurship as a teenager in which she had different side jobs in addition to her regular day jobs. Having different streams of revenue was normal in their household. Though Cook does not really explain whether her mother was successful in these many projects, I think it was interesting for her to highlight this fact. It is a common conception that people migrate to the United States to pursue the American Dream. It is said that the United States has many opportunities for people to look into and choose from. They also have the freedom to explore all of their options as well as find a hidden talent that will and could possibly lead to a successful business.

Cook told technically, “My mother always had a side hustle. She would be selling hats at church and [also worked as] an event coordinator. She was one of those people that does multiple jobs. There’s a stereotype that Caribbean people have multiple hustles and that was the environment I was raised in. In high school, I braided hair and babysat.” Even though she says that this is a stereotype of Caribbean people, I think that it applies to the entire POC community in which times appear harder than in other communities. A common saying from such communities would be, “You got to make due with what you have.” POC are known to make something out of nothing in most cases. They have to be creative when finding a talent.

Cook was able to “test her problem-solving skills and entrepreneurial spirit” when she moved to Philadelphia to attend college at the University of the Arts. She never lived on campus because she preferred to live in the local community. During her time at UArts, she started a club called Positive Minds with the community in mind. It began as an initiative to provide the local children with arts supplies in which she explained that she noticed that they did not access to these things. With these few things that she has done, she began to see entrepreneurship as a way to solve community problems. I find this interesting because usually people who start their own businesses are more focused on the profit that they will be making for themselves. Such businesses usually include clothing lines.

Cook began selling books first as a fundraiser to raise money for her club and then continued to do so after graduating college. From doing so, “she learned how to engage with customers, manage her product selection and build her business. It was there that she learned books could be the catalysts for great discussions among different people.” This experience led to her opening Harriett’s Bookshop in Fishtown at the beginning of 2020.