Sheila has been in bookselling and publishing for over 30 years, in customer-facing and logistics management roles. She has been specifically in bookselling for 20 years as she owned The Beckenham Bookshop from 1997 to 2007 and bought Dulwich Books in 2002. Under her ownership and management, Dulwich Books was voted London Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and in May 2014 the book industry voted it the best bookshop in the UK and Ireland.
This wealth of experience has given Sheila a deep understanding of both customer needs and how to balance that with the commercial needs of a business. She has the analytical skills necessary to identify the best way to resolve an issue and the industry knowledge to advise on changes which will ensure best practice and continued financial success. Her in-depth knowledge of the book trade and her wide-ranging network ensure a clear understanding of the opportunities available for bookshops to help their business succeed.
Although she sold Dulwich Books in 2015, Sheila remains very involved in the industry as a member of the Booksellers Association Council and also as a member of their Independent Booksellers Forum. She has judged many industry awards and been involved in a variety of discussion panels. Sheila's other commitments include working as Events Manager at Village Books, Dulwich, as mentoring is a part-time role.
Sheila says 'I am delighted to be involved in this UCT/BA project to work with independent bookshops to help them improve their business, develop ideas or discuss new strategies. Independent bookshops are a key part of our high streets and contribute enormously to our cultural landscape. Over the past ten years, they have been ingenious in dealing with issues outside their control. To be able to talk through and develop ideas with great bookshop owners will be challenging and exciting, and I am looking forward to helping in any way I can.'
Patrick Neale left the University of Kent with a History and Philosophy degree. He joined Sainsburys Graduate Retail Management scheme and stayed with them for two years.
He has worked in the book trade since 1988, when he joined Waterstones, and has worked all over the United Kingdom in both large and modest sized stores. He has run his own bookshop since 2001.
Together with his partner, Polly, he won The Independent Bookshop of the Year award in 2007 for their bookshop and café, Jaffé and Neale, in Chipping Norton. They have since opened a second shop in Stow-on-the-Wold.
He was President of the Booksellers Association (2012-2014) and is UK Ambassador for Above the Treeline and Edelweiss. He remains a member of the BA Council, fighting to keep bookshops vibrant on the high street.
Patrick has spoken in China, America and Europe in support of the high street and the Books Are My Bag Campaign.
When not fighting for the high street and real books, he likes to read, cycle, climb hills and play rugby.
Patrick says '‘Giving customers a reason to support physical bookshops and buy physical books is what gets me out of bed every day. I believe every bookshop must give their customers a memorable experience that drives them to return time and again. Providing excellent customer service isn't enough to succeed. You have to have a sound business understanding and ground all your activity in the bottom line. I'm passionate about the value independent bookshops give their communities and am glad to do more to assist this whole sector. Having stood down as BA President I'm still motivated to help UK bookshops to thrive. It's important to me that booksellers don't burn out and give up. They need to be fit and healthy to assist the next generation of retailers. It's fantastic that the Unwin Charitable Trust Mentoring Programme will help with that.’