Why Sponsorships?

Borderlands' sponsorships came about as an alternative to closing the store.

On February 1st, 2015, we announced that we'd be closing Borderlands Books by March 31st, 2015, because the recently-voted increase in San Francisco's minimum wage would make the business, already only modestly profitable, completely non-viable within six months to a year (by way of example, once the final wage increase rolled out in 2018, we would have been losing around $30,000 per year).  We figured it was better to close down quickly than to struggle on until the finances were impossible, which would be bad for the business, and even worse for the morale of all of us who work here and love the place.  We said that we thought the dramatic wage increase might likely be very good for San Francisco, but it wasn't sustainable for us.  Books have the prices printed on them, and we can't raise those prices, and we couldn't lower our expenses, so . . . math.

The Internet (and the news reporters) freaked out.  On one hand we had people who had clearly never met us calling us "exploitative capitalist pigs" (among other choice phrases) for being so awful to our employees all these years (the majority of our employees have cheerfully stayed with the business for ten-plus years) -- and on the other hand we had different strangers urging us to read and learn from Ayn Rand, not understanding how we could possibly be naive enough to imagine that something that was bad for us might not be objectively bad.  Fox News called.  MSNBC called.  The New Yorker called.  It was a really bizarre time.

Anyway, our customers also freaked out too, in a much more positive and constructive way.  We held a community meeting on February 12th, not really expecting a solution to arise, but also aware of the fact that we have a very, very smart community.  This community convinced us, with their passion, that we should try an alternative to closing, because Borderlands is more than just a place to buy books -- it is an important cultural destination, and people really, really like it a lot.  We were surprised, delighted, and humbled by just how many people love the store and were unwilling to give it up.

Because of ideas discussed at that meeting, Alan Beatts (the owner) came up with a plan to ask for 300 sponsorships from our customers each year.  The first year, the sponsorship was $100.  In recognition of their sponsorship, our sponsors receive a whole host of cool benefits, including priority seating at author events, a private, sponsors-only wifi network in the cafe, package acceptance service, access to writing workshops, exclusive author events, and other exciting things and events.

Our customers, on this block and all around the world, really came through for us.  We had those requested 300 sponsorships in less than 48 hours and the sponsorships kept coming in.  But, of course, that's not the end.  Each year moving forward we need to reach that goal of at least 300 sponsors.  As long as that continues, we stay in operation (unless something else changes dramatically).  But, if a year comes that we can't get 300 sponsors by March 31st, it will be time to close.

If you'd like to read the entire saga in depth, the links are here:

• An outline of the basic problem that Borderlands faced (and continues to face). <http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2015/02/borderlands-books-to-close-in-march.html>
• The announcement of the sponsorship program as a possible solution. <http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2015/02/an-opportunity-for-borderlands-to-stay.html>
• The announcement of meeting our sponsorship goals for 2015, and the original list of sponsors. <http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2015/03/our-sponsors-for-2015.html>

After the announcement of our possible closure, there was an amazing amount of local and national media coverage, including:

MSNBC anchors (whom seem mystified by basic addition and multiplication): http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/bookstore-set-to-close--citing-minimum-wage-hike-394396227852

A very comprehensive article from The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/minimum-wage-dilemma-san-francisco

A follow-up from The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/can-sponsorship-save-small-bookstores

The Guardian UK weighs in: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/feb/25/borderlands-books-san-francisco-sponsorships-crowdfunding

Local coverage: http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/6921-borderlands-books-community-mobilizes-to-keep-san-francisco-weird

More local coverage, (including news about Comix Experience, who are facing the same problem but trying a different solution): http://pando.com/2015/05/22/san-franciscos-independent-retailers-disrupt-themselves-to-survive/