Meet the owner of Reading in Public bookstore, financial health advice
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JANUARY 30, 2023
Good morning! Here’s what we’ve got on deck for you this week:

All that and more below! Have a great week.

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

Meet Linzi Murray, owner of Reading in Public Bookstore + Cafe
Linzi Murray is the owner of Reading In Public Bookstore + Cafe. Photo by Emily Kestel.
Rest assured that when you walk into the new Reading in Public bookstore at 315 Fifth St. in West Des Moines’ Valley Junction, everything – down to the last speck of color on the counter – has been well thought out.

Linzi Murray, who has a background in design, has dreamed of opening the bookstore since 2021. Her vision for the store is inspired by different elements and displays throughout her favorite local bookstores in Brooklyn, N.Y.: Books are Magic, Center for Fiction and McNally Jackson.

Born from Murray’s lifelong love of books and her philosophy of practicing radical empathy, Reading in Public places a strong emphasis on mental health and social advocacy.  

Wanting others to feel included, as if they were in their own home, is at the heart of Reading in Public, Murray said.  

The color palette – inspired by the sunset in the desert – is made up of earthy and warm pinks. The red oak shelving and cabinets, along with the speckled quartz countertops, were the result of dozens of tweaks in the color selection process.

But what really sets Reading in Public apart is the visual representation of different identities, whether through custom art or the purposeful display of the books themselves.

Reading in Public employs nine people, including Murray, all of whom are women or nonbinary. As far as she knows, Reading in Public is one of only two Asian-owned bookstores in the Midwest.

We caught up with Murray to talk about the store and the experiences she’s had leading up to its opening. The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Tell me about your background and what brought you to where you are today.

Right after I graduated from college [Gooi and I] moved to New York City for four years. In New York, there's stuff going on all the time. People are making things all the time. You can't help but be inspired by it. It's like it's in the air. It’s contagious – well, that's not a good word to use anymore; we were in New York for COVID.

But you learn how to craft experiences and how impactful they could be or have the potential to be. In this role, that translated to "What do I love? What do I not like? What are my rituals?"

To me, bookstores feel like going home. When I first started with this idea, the words that I used a lot were "wander" and "gather." When I peruse shelves in bookstores, I go into a contemplative, meditative state where I’m at peace with everything. [I want to] give other people that, so they can feel instinctively that this is a place where you come in and feel safe and comforted.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in opening up your own business?

The long process. All of the construction was paused for three months because I wasn’t able to get a loan.

But also on the personal level, having to learn how to adapt when things are not going right. Of course there's times we don't have control and where things go wrong. I'm at the mercy of other people and I can't do anything about it. But within the circumstances, what do I do? What can I do? When I found out we couldn't open in 2022 at all, I had to learn to not let it knock me down. And just be like, OK, that's the situation, reassess, new plan.

You hold several intersecting identities as a young, Asian woman. Has that played a role in what you have or haven’t experienced throughout this process?

I've always had the personality of "I'm gonna do what I want." I went into everything having such a clear vision of what I wanted. I don’t succumb to any limitations.

I'm learning how to be a boss of people, which is very bizarre to me. Even though I've always been a natural leader, it's still very intimidating. Some people's livelihoods depend on me now. I tell my baristas, "Go wild, do whatever you want. If you have ideas, tell me." Leading with empathy is more heavily associated with women, but it's also just a decent human thing that a lot of people seem to lack for some reason. I want to have kids and be a mom soon. I’ve told my staff that it’s OK to be human.

My motivation of wanting people to feel at home derives from a traumatic childhood and wanting so desperately to feel understood and validated and accepted. I've always known that’s my life goal, being that for other people.

We focus on social justice initiatives and standing up for other people, because this world is just ridiculous. In the job applications, I asked, "What kind of causes do you care about?" because everybody should care about something here. I want to do the most good we can as a collective.

This is a queer safe space. I've already done partnerships with the Iowa Abortion Access Fund. There's also that toeing the line of "Do I speak my values as a business or not? Do I stay neutral?" But I feel like owning a bookstore or loving books, there's not going to be neutrality because my whole thing with books is that it cultivates empathy. So, no, I'm not going to be quiet. How do you stay silent when you're surrounded by people's stories?

I do get nervous about being an Asian-owned business. When all the anti-Asian hate was happening in New York City in 2021, I was terrified for my life every day for the first time. I was scared to go outside, because acid was being thrown at Asian people from cars. There was an elderly woman who was set on fire. There was a woman who got thrown in front of a subway. I would text my best friend and say, "They killed another one of us."

I've been assaulted on the subway, I've been threatened to be killed. People are being objectified all the time. People have screamed sexual things at me, even right next to Drake. Being a woman in this world, and being Asian, is having a target put on our back. People welcome me to my own country all the time. I've been here almost my whole life.

We are living in a white person's world, where we have to make concessions all the time. We're constantly reminded that it's not our world. But that's bull----. I care about having books in other languages. I intentionally put Spanish books up next to the English ones because I want to indicate that English isn't the default, necessarily.

My husband’s and my kids will be 100% Chinese. I want a better world for them where they don't have to fear for their lives for looking the way they do.

What advice would you give to someone looking to open a brick and mortar business right now?

I think it's all about connections that you make with people. In Iowa, there are quite a few resources, but the best way to do it is to connect with other people who have been through it. I couldn't have done any of this without the many, many people who have been involved with this process.

Fundamentally trust yourself and keep pursuing good. Keep a firm understanding of why you're doing what you're doing. Because when you feel like everything's going wrong and you want to quit, you can't forget what you can be for the community.

Setting the stage for financial health early in your career
Editor’s note: This is the first of a four-part guest commentary series from Foster Group that aims to provide insight into navigating your financial health, from early career to retirement.

Earning your first paycheck is an undeniably exciting time. But do you know what to do with your pay? With three key steps, you can build good financial habits early.

Spend, save, give
Start by allocating your take-home pay into three different buckets: spend, save and give.

1. Spend
– It’s important to have a good understanding of how much money it takes to run your household each month, including both fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs are expenses that are consistent, such as housing, utilities, insurance, car payments, student loan/debt payments, subscriptions and day care costs. Variable costs may change from month to month; for example, your food, entertainment, clothing, personal care, travel, gifts and other items that aren’t fixed costs.

Take a look at your anticipated monthly expenses. If the total of the fixed and variable costs is higher than your monthly income, you’ll need to either reduce your costs or find additional sources of income to meet the excess. It may involve a combination of both to help you feel financially confident.

2. Save – If you have leftover income after your fixed and variable costs are satisfied, this money can be allocated to your "save" bucket. Open a savings account that is separate from your day-to-day checking account. Your target balance for this account should ideally be an amount equal to six months of your typical monthly expenses if you are single, or three months if you are married or living with a partner and your spouse/partner is employed outside of the home. Think of this account as your "rainy day" fund for infrequent or unexpected expenses, such as car or home repairs, medical expenses or replacing a home appliance.

Once you have saved either three or six months of expenses, you can consider opening an investment account and purchasing low-cost, broadly diversified index funds. Consider talking with a financial adviser when you’re ready to get started with investing.

If you have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) or 403(b), start by deferring a percentage of your gross pay before taxes. If there is an employer match, contribute at least enough to receive the full match; it’s free money!

3. Give Consider starting with a target percentage of your take-home pay for charitable intentions. Keep this money in a separate checking account to reduce temptation to use it for daily living needs. Remember that giving back isn’t just about the money; you can also consider donating your time!

Managing expenses
While earning a consistent paycheck is nice, your early career days often introduce significant expenses to your budget. Often, one of your largest monthly expenses is housing. You might consider living with a roommate to help defray housing costs. Whether you intend to purchase a home sooner or later, start putting aside some money for a down payment as early as you can. If you can save 20% of the home purchase price as a down payment, you will avoid costly private mortgage insurance and benefit from a lower monthly mortgage payment.
Transportation is another expense to consider, especially in areas that don’t have extensive public transit systems. Keep your mind open to pre-owned vehicles that are 3-10 years old, which may be a better bargain than a brand-new car. In the long run, a $15,000 car that is newer with lower mileage could be less expensive than a $5,000 car that is older with higher mileage because the older car may require more costly maintenance and repairs.

Tackle debt or start saving?
When it comes to consumer debt, such as credit cards or "payday loans," you should work on paying off those debts quickly. If the debt is long-term in nature with a lower interest rate, such as student loans or a home mortgage, you’ll want to balance retiring debt and building your savings – consider allocating 50-75% of excess funds to pay down debt while putting 25-50% to savings to help build your savings and investments and maybe help you better prepare for pre-retirement/retirement age.

Don’t forget about life insurance
If your employer offers free group life insurance, take it! Life insurance can be an effective income and wealth replacement tool. When you are younger, life insurance can be very inexpensive. Talk to a financial adviser or use an online calculator to determine how much life insurance you need based on your income, expenses, savings and age/phase of life.

Ask for help
If it feels like there are a lot of things to consider to get your financial house in order, it’s because there are! Don’t put your head in the sand and pretend these issues will sort themselves out. Time is your most valuable commodity, and the earlier you start, the easier it will be to build a solid foundation. Talk to a financial adviser early on. Many have low hourly fees or one-time planning fees to get you started.

Remember that you are investing in yourself and your future by doing this work early. The time to start is now!

PLEASE SEE IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION at A copy of our written disclosure Brochure as set forth on Part 2A of Form ADV is available at

Left: Gov. Kim Reynolds. Center: Iowa Pork Producers Association President Trish Cook. Right: Norwegian Honorary Consul Suzanne Mineck.
In the headlines
Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed into law her signature school choice legislation that creates tax-funded education savings accounts available to K-12 students statewide with no income limits. The money can be spent on educational expenses such as tuition at private schools. Opponents of the law have criticized Reynolds' plan to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in education funding to religious schools and selective private systems. Reynolds said her priority is dedicating state funding to follow students, regardless of their income level or the schools they go to.

Trish Cook has been elected as the new president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Cook, a Buchanan County pig farmer, is the first woman to serve as president.

The Norwegian government has appointed Suzanne Mineck as Honorary Consul for Iowa and Nebraska. In addition to her deep ancestral ties to the country, she recently launched consulting company Mineck Advisors to guide and challenge individuals, foundations and funder groups to make a meaningful difference through transformative philanthropy.

No women were nominated for the best director Academy Award at the upcoming 95th Oscars ceremony, after a female director won the award in each of the previous two years. Despite recent wins, only seven women have ever been nominated for directing efforts in the Academy Awards' history.

Time’s Up – the anti-harassment organization founded in the midst of the #MeToo movement – is ceasing operations this month, following a series of scandals. All remaining financial resources will shift to the independently administered Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.

In 2022, American startups with all-women teams received less than 2% of the $238.3 billion in venture capital – a drop from 2.4% raised in 2021. When teams were mixed-gender, that percentage rose to 17.2%.

This year, employers in California, Washington and Rhode Island will be required to abide by new pay transparency legislation, following the lead of laws in Colorado and New York City. Women’s rights leaders have said that salary transparency policies can help address pay inequity.

Iowans working in registered child care centers would not have to pay state taxes on that income if a bill introduced in the Iowa House becomes law. Dustin Miller of the Iowa Chamber Alliance suggested that it could spur investment in child care centers. Some bill backers say people who run child care businesses don’t make huge profits, if they make any at all, and exempting registered child care centers from property taxes might be another way to boost investment.

Worth checking out
The time has come to license midwives in Iowa (Bleeding Heartland). It’s time to leave the Strong Black Woman trope in the past. Meet the Soft Black Girl (Fortune). She helped save lives in Afghanistan. Now, she's earned the military's top flight medal (Iowa Public Radio). How New Mexico child care workers got the state to invest in their industry (The 19th).
Gender balance law elimination bill passes Iowa Senate committee
A bill that would eliminate Iowa’s gender balance law passed 12-6 along party lines out of the Senate State Government Committee last week.

The law requires that all state, county and municipal boards and commissions be gender-balanced.

Sen. Jason Schultz, who introduced the bill, said he is "not a quota supporter" and said it’s time to "address the artificial restrictions" that were placed on board and commission appointments.

Schultz said one of his constituents is suing the state in federal court over gender-based restrictions to serve on the state’s judicial nominating commission, and that they can’t be appointed "because there’s too many women."

He said he "respects the opposition" to the bill, but insists that the idea of a gender balance law is out of date, and doesn’t belong in the Iowa Code anymore.

"It’s time to move Iowa forward and acknowledge the merits of women and not the need to artificially place women on boards," Schultz said.

Democrats opposed to the bill, including Sens. Claire Celsi, Janice Weiner and Pam Jochum, argued at the committee meeting that the law as it stands has helped women gain leadership experience and helps ensure that no one gets left out, especially women.

Most women who run for public office start out serving in local government to "test their wings," Celsi said, adding she did the very same thing and was able to do so because of the gender quota rules.

"Going backwards on this," Celsi said, "is ridiculous and insulting."

Weiner and Jochum acknowledged that it can take extra work to seek out qualified women to serve on boards, but argued the "advantages are worth the effort."

Right now, fewer than two-thirds of city- and county-level boards and commissions are gender-balanced, while nearly all state-level boards and commissions are gender-balanced.

In a Radio Iowa article, Gov. Kim Reynolds said she's open to repealing the requirement, but has not committed to signing it into law.

The bill, now named
SF 136, moves to the regular calendar, where it becomes eligible to be debated by the full chamber.
Des Moines Public Library book pick
As an ongoing feature of the Business Record’s Business Briefing section, staff members at the Des Moines Public Library recommend a business-related book to add to your reading list. Find this and more books like it at any of the Des Moines Public Library’s six locations and online at And find information on how to get a free library card and all its benefits at

Des Moines Public Library business book pick: "When Women Lead" by Julia Boorstin.

Why you should read it: CNBC reporter Julia Boorstin's deeply reported 2022 book brings together the stories of dozens of female CEOs and leaders to reveal how characteristics once thought of as detriments to traditional business – such as empathy and vulnerability and gratitude – can actually be superpowers to success. An essential resource for people in all levels of an organization.

Be fearless with us
At its core, Fearless exists to help empower Iowa women to succeed in work and life. We believe that everyone has a story to share and that we cannot progress as a society unless we know about one another. We share stories through featuring women in our reporting, featuring guest contributions and speakers at our events.

We are always looking for new stories to share and people to feature. Get in touch with us!

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