Boss Women: Highlighting businesswomen in Eau Claire

Margaret Leonard and Jill Heinke Moen – owners of soon-to-open literary space, Dotters Books

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Taylor Reisdorf

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Boss Women: Highlighting businesswomen in Eau Claire

Photo by Savannah Reeves

Photo by Savannah Reeves

Photo by Savannah Reeves

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A person’s career aspirations are often rooted in childhood. Questions like “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What is your dream job?” are asked from an early age.  As a person grows older, these dreams are watered until they bloom into a career.

For Margaret Leonard, co-owner of Dotters Books, her lifelong dream of owning a bookstore has become a reality. Dotters Books, owned by Leonard and Jill Heinke Moen, began selling literature — through pop-up shops and online — in 2017.

It all started at a book club meeting at Red’s Mercantile last year. The event was organized by Elizabeth de Cleyre and it was here that Leonard and Heinke Moen met for the first time.

Heinke Moen said she was inspired by Leonard’s childhood dream.

“As a member of Eau Claire’s artistic community, rounding out the arts climate is a big priority for me,” Heinke Moen said.

Things got moving quickly, Leonard said. Just a week after that book club meeting, she, Heinke Moen and de Cleyre were making plans in Leonard’s living room.

“The process has been both exciting and terrifying,” Leonard said. “So much of the process is really fun – choosing which books you want to sell, how you want the store to look, the different events that you’d like to be a part of, meeting other book lovers and talking books.”

However, starting and owning a business can be overwhelming, Leonard said. This is particularly the case when it comes to finances. The pair are in the process of making the leap from online to brick and mortar, with the physical store — located at 1602 Hogeboom Ave. in the Eastside Hill neighborhood — opening sometime this month.

This change requires a pretty substantial increase in costs, Leonard said. This increase has led to the prioritization of budgeting and marketing.

Heinke Moen said she’s been self-employed for the majority of her career, so being a business owner hasn’t been that big of a change for her. However, the pair, she said, are constantly learning and growing throughout the experience.

Dotters Books, Heinke Moen said, is planned to be a cozy space for families and students alike. It will feature a children’s book room, music and coffee. Its shelves will be packed with the work of under-represented authors, she said, but also popular titles, the classics and a variety of children’s books. Customers also have access to recommendations and can make special orders, Heinke Moen said.

Leonard said Dotters Books will also host various author events, weekly storytimes, pop-ups and book clubs.  

“Dotters was founded to support and nurture the community, and encourage literacy, creativity and collaboration,” Leonard said.

Once things really get up and running, the business partners hope to expand the outdoor and basement parts of Dotters Books, Heinke Moen said.

Eau Claire – because of its supportive community – has been an ideal place to start a business, Leonard said.

“One of the most humbling aspects of this experience has been the incredible network of women that have supported and encouraged us along the way,” Leonard said. “The people that we have met and worked with genuinely want to see you succeed and will help in any way that they can… we wouldn’t be where we are without the entrepreneurial women – and plenty of men – in this community. It’s a really special place.”

For those looking to start a business of their own, Heinke Moen said to just go for it.

“Eau Claire is such a friendly, forward-thinking place where there is lots of opportunity to work towards your dreams,” Heinke Moen said.

Reisdorf can be reached at [email protected]

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