My week: Barry Crow of Green Metropolis

The online bookstore founder on multi-tasking, working with charities and how he hopes his puppy will help him find a work/life balance.

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
No week’s the same as the next as I probably do a little bit of everything. When we started it was just me, so I did it all: from designing the website to answering emails to customers. Obviously as we’ve grown I’ve been able to take on a few members of staff – there are now four of us – but I still like to keep my hand in. I would say my time is predominantly spent on the enhancement side. Green Metropolis is an online bookstore which buys and sells second-hand books while raising money for charities, and we now have more than 100,000 members. It doesn’t cost anything to join, but this gives it a book club feel and our members are very vocal about changes they want us to make.

One change I’ve been working really hard recently on is a new function which means members can donate more of the cash they get for their books to charity. Since the beginning, we have been donating 5p from the sale of every book to the Woodland Trust, but we found customers wanted to give more. Now, they can give all the money they make to their chosen charity.

This also meant getting more charities onboard, so we began working with Macmillan Cancer Support earlier this year, and then just this week went live with Age UK. Now individual sellers can nominate one of our partner charities to support through their book sales. We’ve evolved from a second-hand bookstore to a second-hand and charity online bookstore. So this means that the last few months have been completely consumed by working with the charities. It’s unbelievable how much legal stuff you have to go through and then there’s dealing with the marketing department to make sure they’re happy with the wording on our site. It’s been great, but it’s been a huge amount of work.

Up until a few weeks ago, I was in the office from 9 till 5 – not that I’d necessarily stop work then. One of the things about running your own internet business is that it’s running 24 hours a day, seven days a week - the site doesn’t stop – so you end up working all hours. In search of a better work/life balance I got myself a puppy, a boxer called Monty. This means I work from home in the morning and then go into the office in the afternoons. I do think it’ll help me get a better balance between work and home but in the short term it’s actually causing me more stress because I’m dashing between the two all the time. I also feel the most incredible guilt – when I’m at home I feel guilty not being at work, and when I’m at work I feel guilty about not being with Monty. I’m not sure what’s worse.

Barry Crow is the founder of Green Metropolis, an online second-hand bookseller.

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