Q&A: The Ripped Bodice Founders Bea & Leah Koch

If you’re on social media, you’ve probably heard about the kickstarter campaign for a romance-only bookstore, The Ripped Bodice. It’s such a neat idea we thought we’d check in with sisters Bea and Leah Koch, who love this genre as much as we do, as the campaign winds down. There’s only eight days to go, and they’re soooo close! 

You raised 25 percent of your goal in just five hours! How did that feel? 

It felt fantastic! We have found that one of the hardest parts of opening a business, one that we didn’t really anticipate, is how hard it is to maintain your confidence in your own ideas. So many people are ready to pick apart your plans and tell you how you are going to fail and pretty soon you start to doubt yourself. When we finally launched it was incredible to see this amazing community of readers and authors cheering on Twitter, saying we have been waiting for this and we support you. We were particularly excited when authors whose books we have loved for years donated and spread the word. 

Why did you decide to fund your store via Kickstarter? What have been the highs? The lows?

We chose Kickstarter because it allows entrepreneurs to go directly to their target customer base and ask for help. We didn’t want to have to go to a bank or investors and convince them that two young women who love and believe in romance novels were “worthy” of their money. We knew that there were many readers and writers out there who already knew romance novels were worthy of their own store and who would rally together as a community to help us reach our goal. I think our success so far has really proved that theory true. It is definitely a bit of a slog as we move toward the end of the campaign, but we are very confident that we will reach our goal with the help of this incredibly supportive community.

“Bodice Rippers” is often a derogatory term used to describe romance novels. Why did you decide to use the term to name your store? 

We want to be unapologetic about the history of the genre. We’ve been judged and belittled for so long, and we are uninterested in continuing that narrative. We purposely chose to use the phrase in the past tense — the bodice has been ripped. And we want to pay homage to the history of romance, while also moving forward into a new generation of readers who are continuing to evolve the genre. 

We’re honestly not trying to offend or shock anyone. We’re trying to figure out how to sell our entire idea with one phrase. And we’re trying to figure out how we feel as young women who read, write and sell the genre. Our name opened a dialogue about the modern language surrounding romance, and we’re thrilled with that. We’ve heard so many different opinions and the thing that we want everyone to keep in mind is this: romance means so much to us all, and we are each entitled to our own opinions about it. We want to be respectful, but we still want to talk about romance in our way. We want to be authentic to who we are, and we are are coming from, and how that has led us to romance. 
How did you come up with your slogan, Purveyors of Fine Smut?

Our slogan is another way we wanted to wink at the community while also owning what we are selling to our customers. There is sex in a lot of romance novels. We are not ashamed of that. But so many people focus on the sex as another way to belittle the genre. And we simply disagree with that. 

Of course, some romance doesn’t have sex and that’s great too! The more the merrier, etc. We want to have a wide range of romance in the store so there is something for everyone. 

We also didn’t pick our name or slogan in a vacuum — we are trying to respond to the the conversations about romancing happening now. A lot of blogs and businesses surrounding romance pick names that try and engage with the stereotypes about our genre. 

What plans do you have for in-store design? Will themes from romance sub-genres inspire the décor?

Yes and it’s one of the things we are most excited about! We have always planned to organize the store by sub-genre so we are always coming up with ideas about how we can decorate the vampire section or the western section. We are hoping to have a lot of fun with it. 

Will you both be working in the store after the opening?

Yes and we can’t wait. We have our lady bookseller outfits all picked out. But on a more serious note: we are extremely excited to be in the store every day, connecting with people who love romance as much as we do. 

There are just eight days to go for The Ripped Bodice Kickstarter campaign and they are sooo close to their goal! Click here to help the sisters out and to learn more about the labor of love that is making romance readers rejoice! Of course, you can find more romantic reads and ideas on our Everything Romance page.

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