Longtime friends combine passion for reading and launch online book business amid pandemic

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MILWAUKEE – If you need a pick-me-up, there’s a collection of wellness stories on ShareLemonade.com.

It is a place to celebrate the good.

A story fresh from the site features good friends, an online business, and a mission to give parents and kids the books they love.

Over the past three months, the children have turned to reading more than usual.

But starting a business during a pandemic? It’s something that Rebecca Hougard and her lifelong friend and former babysitter, Amanda Seppanen, felt was the next step in their journey.

“What better time to provide affordable books to people when they can’t go to bookstores and can’t shop,” Seppanen said.

This passion for books goes back quite far in their friendship.

“Amanda always loved books, she would babysit us and I feel like that’s where my love of reading started,” Hougard said.

Their online bookstore is called Azora Books and so far they have 1,500 individual titles and expect to double by the end of the summer.

“Our clients are primarily parents, grandparents and teachers,” Seppanen said. “Lots of teachers, which is great because Rebecca and I are both educators.”

Azora Books began with a fundraiser for the adoption of Micah, Amanda’s adopted son.

Amanda Seppanen and her son, Micah

“So far, I’m about to pay $30,000 for the adoption,” Seppanen said. “Micah will be 2 in September and I still have $7,000 in unpaid bills, then I can reduce the adoption debt.”

“Everything about this is really for Micah and also to raise awareness for causes that are really close to our hearts, like literacy and adoption,” Seppanen said. “A lot of people don’t realize how expensive the process is and how quickly it can snowball if you run into any delays or difficulties along the way.”

“What sets us apart from everyone else is that we have that focus and yes, we have a strategic business model, but we were wholehearted,” Seppanen said.

“Rebecca and I have a special connection ourselves and I appreciate that relationship, but what it means to Micah is truly amazing and I’m so grateful for that,” Seppanen said.

“For us, Azora Books is kind of like the fulfillment of so many hopeful things, because I can hear Rebecca and Micah playing right now and I think the same games I played with her when I I was a kid, she plays with him and I could never have imagined that,” Seppanen said.

Amanda, Rebecca and Micah are constantly on the lookout for new books and also accept book donations, which in turn can become possible sales on their website.

New and used children’s books sold can be shipped anywhere in the United States and with a $35 purchase, free local shipping is available.

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