According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses make up 99.9% of all U.S. businesses. What’s more, Utah has been credited as the most pro-small business state in America, thanks to our state’s pro-business initiatives and support systems. Each month, the Salt Lake Chamber will highlight a small business in Utah to emphasize its importance in our economy and encourage local support.  

Every business has an origin story, and LitJoy is no exception: It all began with a book club. In 2016, Kelly Dearth was the organizer of a longtime neighborhood book club, and Alix Lewis-Burrows owned a blogging business. As fate would have it, the two connected at a conference and hatched a plan — a plan to create a book club in a box.

“That was the last week of January in 2016,” Lewis-Burrows said. “By February 5th, we had a business license, and we shipped our first product in May. So from January to May, we launched a whole company, and it’s been a sprint ever since.”

Although they began like every other Utah startup — with a dream and lots of hard work — Lewis-Burrows and Dearth were no ordinary business founders. Both were full-time moms with a one- and three-year-old each. Their first headquarters was a kitchen table, and their first employees were their toddlers, who loved to help their moms pack boxes, as well as a few close friends.

“It was really just a family affair in the beginning, especially with our littles,” Lewis-Burrows said. “Now they’re all grown up, in junior high and fourth grade.”

Of course, LitJoy has come a long way since 2016. Lewis-Burrows and Dearth have expanded their business from a book club subscription service to a full-blown literature company, offering special edition books, licensed merchandise and all types of exclusive bookish products. One thing hasn’t changed, though, as their vision has always been the same: to cultivate connection and joy through stories.

“Anytime we roll out a new product concept, project or marketing campaign, we always ask ourselves, ‘Is it creating joy and connection?’” Lewis-Burrows explained. “We do a lot of things where we’re connecting authors to readers, like creating product lines with authors. It’s a great way for us to bring their books to life and get them to readers. So there’s always a community element.” 

For LitJoy customers, the community aspect includes a range of book-related content, from blogs and podcasts to a private Facebook group where members discuss their latest reads. 

“A lot of people feel like reading is this solitary experience. But at the very least, they’re co-creating a universe with the author,” Lewis-Burrows said. “There’s this moment when someone finishes the book where they want to talk to somebody about it, so a lot of what we do is kind of facilitating those conversations.”

Lewis-Burrows explained that small and mid-sized businesses like hers have a unique opportunity to amplify diverse voices, collaborate with others in the community and follow their passions. She’s loved every minute of being a business owner, not just for herself, but also for her family.

“Honestly, the thing I cherish the most about my company is that my daughter, my business partners’ daughters, and my son will just never question if a woman should be running a company,” Lewis-Burrows said. “I’m proud of the fact that my kids can see me as a CEO. That sort of example was few and far between during my childhood, so that’s an opportunity that I’m really grateful for.”

During her journey as a woman CEO and small business owner, Lewis-Burrows has found many of the resources and networking opportunities she needed through the Salt Lake Chamber. She explained that the Chamber’s network of changemakers and career expanders made it possible for her to get involved in the Utah business community even as a busy professional and working mother.

“In the world of startups, especially female-run startups where you have kids, you bury your head in the work for so long,” Lewis-Burrows said. “I said yes to the Chamber because the timing was right for me to connect with people who could amplify LitJoy’s voice and help us expand.”

LitJoy is a small business dedicated to creating a community for book lovers with signed books, book boxes and gifts. Click here to support their small business.