Chief Business Officer, BiblioLabs
Born and lived: Charleston, SC.
Early life: I grew up in Summerville, a suburb of Charleston, where I played some sports but mostly tried to be popular. I then went to the College of Charleston, majored in English and put in the minimal effort required to make Bs and get out in four years. Then I spent some time out West after college washing dishes, climbing rocks, and trying to “find myself” (it mostly worked!). I then returned to Charleston and became an entrepreneur at 24 when I was too stupid and young to know any better. I find I need the challenge of entrepreneurship and building new things to drive my work ethic, which has become stronger and stronger over the years.
Professional career and activities: I started a small desktop publishing and Web development company in my 20s that was a huge learning experience. This was just as the Web as we know it today was being invented (Netscape 1.0), and the overwhelming potential of the Internet hit me like a ton of bricks. Ultimately, I proved too immature and inexperienced to run my own business,but I met some partners, and we started BookSurge in 2000.
BookSurge was the world’s first integrated, global print-on-demand and publishing platform. We sold that company to Amazon in 2005. I went to Seattle and got what I like to call an Amazon MBA (hard-earned!) and then re-grouped with my former co-founders, and we launched BiblioLabs in 2007.
We got BiblioLabs profitable in 2009 and have built our digital business (BiblioBoard) as our own VCs, funding it from cash flow. We unveiled BiblioBoard at ALA Mid-Winter in January 2013 and will have our official launch in March. We think we have created an entirely new media ecosystem and the platform to deliver it.
Family: Incredible wife and creative partner Farrah Hoffmire, two beagles (Freddy and Lucy) and two cats (Nina Simone and Natalie). We also have three great nieces to whom we serve as crazy aunt and uncle.
In my spare time: I spend a lot of time re-charging my batteries, mostly through being with my wife, doing yoga, breathing, sweating, and exercising. I also love to body surf and ride the Stand-Up Paddleboard. I play in a Widespread Panic cover band called 54 Bicycles, which is a lot of fun. I am not spending much time on this now, but over the past eight years my wife and I have produced some award-winning documentaries through our “active philanthropic” organization — Organic Process Productions. That has been a fantastic opportunity to travel the world and tell stories we find important and interesting.
Favorite books: Hard, but to pick a few: nearly every book by Tom Robbins, Krishnamurti writings, Archaic Revival by Terrence McKenna, The Book by Alan Watts, Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, Richard Brautigan poetry books, and Ben Timpson art books.
Pet peeves: Laziness, I guess.
Philosophy: Do what you can, when you can. If you can’t, just don’t do it. Also the serenity prayer is pretty spot on.
Most memorable career achievement: Selling BookSurge to Amazon and playing a part in the successful integration was fantastic. Also, winning the Publishers Innovation Award along with the British Library on our first digital product is a big one. But, spending the last 18 months building BiblioBoard and launching it with the amazing team we have now trumps both of those.
Goal I hope to achieve five years from now: I want to see BiblioBoard flourish and reach its potential over the next five years.
Leah was appointed Executive Director of the Charleston Conference in 2017, and has served in various roles with the Charleston Information Group, LLC, since 2004. Prior to working for the conference, she was Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions for the College of Charleston for four years. She lives in a small town near Columbia, SC, with her husband and two kids where they raise a menagerie of farm animals.