With support from the company, Shelf Awareness celebrates Gibbs Smith, the employee-owned, mission-driven, B Corp that publishes in a sustainable, responsible, thoughtful way.
With support from the company, Shelf Awareness celebrates Gibbs Smith, the employee-owned, mission-driven, B Corp that publishes in a sustainable, responsible, thoughtful way.
What is Gibbs Smith? People often think of us as publishers of Western fashion and humor, luxury interior design and architecture, throwback cookbooks, southern comfort food, award-winning state history curriculum, and BabyLit® children's books. These all have a place in our catalogs, but in 2023 we are much, much more.
Gibbs Smith started the publishing journey with his wife, Catherine, in 1969 after authoring the seminal biography of union songwriter Joe Hill. Gibbs's interests peregrinated with his contacts among artists, poets, designers, architects, and writers, so much so that the iconic peregrine colophon continues to identify the company today.
Although varied, Gibbs's interests never wandered far from history, nature, culture, and design. Our mission statement, "To enrich and inspire humankind," is a broad invitation for our books to promote cultural literacy, civic responsibility, and appreciation for the beauty and fragility of our planet.
Gibbs and Catherine also never abandoned their pro-worker views. In 2015, they sold half of the company to its employees. Our ESOP structure ensures that every employee receives ownership shares regardless of their role and ability to afford it. We took our largest step towards ongoing independence and employee ownership in August 2022 when the company became completely ESOP owned.
By the time Gibbs passed in 2017, these diverse interests and devotion to the betterment of society had been built into the DNA of the company. We began our own journey to write these values into our governing documents and practices, culminating in our recent certification as a B Corp. Our expanded and more focused effort as an employee-owned, certified B Corp is to create books, online programs, and gift products to educate, enrich, and inspire people about the world around us in accessible, inclusive, equitable, and sustainable ways.
Who is Gibbs Smith today? We are 100+ employee-owners working to provide a positive impact on society. Through our 7 Cats imprint, we produce children's books at lower price points and companywide we participate in donation programs to promote literacy in our communities and schools. Our Education segment produces fact-based and 100% standards-aligned state, national, and world civilization history courses, exciting and beautiful supplemental social studies materials, education thought leadership publications, and educator training. We work to reduce our impact on the environment, offsetting 100% of our Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and those Scope 3 emissions we can measure.
You'll still see Western humor, Southern cooking, social studies, and culturally aware children's books on our lists. But you'll also see reading-themed gift products, national online social studies software, modern designers giving insights into their beautifully decorated spaces, and photographic collections of Western icons. No matter where our new peregrinations take us, our commitment to do the right business the right way will follow. --Brad Farmer, CEO, Gibbs Smith
Gibbs Smith is one of the few employee-owned book publishers in the country. The company's Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) bought half of the company in 2015 from founders Gibbs and Catherine Smith. Then, on August 31, 2022, the Gibbs Smith ESOP purchased the other half of the company from Catherine Smith. (Gibbs Smith had died in 2017.)
ESOP ownership means that every full-time Gibbs Smith employee earns shares in the company; that employees have tax benefits, retirement gains, and a vested interest in their workplace; and that the longtime viability of the company is assured.
When the ESOP purchased the second half of Gibbs Smith, Catherine Smith said, "It has been 53 years since two humanities majors decided to start a publishing company. We chose a lofty motto: 'to enrich and inspire humankind.' Being a publisher can be a great life, not necessarily for amassing wealth, but in finding and exploring the essential fascination to be found in people, places, and events around us and sharing it. I congratulate the new owners, the remarkable people who have made the company a success."
And CEO Brad Farmer, representing the executive management team, said, "We are excited to fulfill Gibbs and Catherine Smith's dream of becoming a fully employee-owned company. Being 100% ESOP owned is a dynamic change in the company's status and is in complete harmony with our triple-bottom-line focus on people, planet, and profits. We are proud, as employee owners, to carry Gibbs and Catherine's legacy into the next generation of ownership and evolution."
Employee ownership has made a big difference for the staff. For example, Nick Kiriazis, Internal Sales Rep, Gibbs Smith Education, said, "It is a tremendous professional honor and responsibility to be an employee-owner. Knowing that we're all in this together and relying on each other imbues me with a sense of greater community and purpose in my work."
Danielle McGuigan, Art Director, 7 Cats Press, said, "Even though I am working remotely in Pennsylvania and the corporate offices are in Utah, being an employee owner makes me feel like a bigger part of the company."
Lisa Higley, Accounting Supervisor, Gibbs Smith, added, "Being an ESOP to me means I am seen. Too often single mothers in the work force are not valued. At other companies I have felt like a doormat. I had to come to work no matter the environment to provide for my kids. I did the same work as others but received lower wages and no acknowledgement. Working for an ESOP has provided me opportunities to have a voice and grow into a leader. I have been able to serve on the Board of Directors and help create a work place that I enjoy."
And Diane Collett, Photo Editor, Gibbs Smith Education, said, "I love being an employee-owner. I appreciate the transparency and the ability everyone has to be part of leadership decisions. I also like that we are B Corp certified. Not only does it help show the world our commitment, but it also reinforces the importance of our work to our fellow employee-owners as well. We're all in this together, and I am grateful to be part of it."
Gibbs Smith is also one of the few book companies that's a B Corp, making it "the only 100% employee-owned, certified B Corp publisher and distributor in the U.S."
On February 4, 2023, Gibbs Smith was certified by B Lab as a B Corporation (B Corp) after meeting its rigorous social and environmental standards, representing the company's commitment to goals outside shareholder profit. B Lab was founded in the U.S. in 2006; any for-profit company in business for at least a year is eligible to pursue B Corp certification. There are some 6,700 B Corps in 90 countries, including Bookshop.org and Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Gibbs Smith says that it became a certified B Corp "to demonstrate our active commitment to our communities," which include its employee-owners, local communities, the book and education industries, and last but not least, the planet.
As part of the company's commitment to sustainable environment and community practices, it tracks its Scope 1, Scope 2, and partial Scope 3 carbon footprint and offsets 100% of it. Gibbs Smith physical office facilities, business travel, production/printing, and outbound shipping are all carbon neutral. The company's efforts support forestry, landfill gas capture, and wind farm projects.
|Gibbs and Catherine Smith|
In 1969, Gibbs Smith, then a student at the University of Utah, wrote his master's thesis on Joe Hill, a Utah labor leader. His thesis was published by Grosset & Dunlap as the book Labor Martyr: Joe Hill. The book inspired a movie that won the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971.
Building on the success and profits from the film, Gibbs and his wife, Catherine, founded a publishing company called Peregrine Publishers. The couple wanted to establish an independent company very different from "The Big Six" publishers that dominated at the time.
Their first office was in Santa Barbara, California, where they published four supplementary history textbooks for college classrooms. The company moved to Utah in 1973 and was renamed Peregrine Smith. Gibbs and Catherine poured their profits into the business and converted an old family barn built in 1916 into offices. Shortly after, they proudly published their first state history textbook, Utah's Heritage, for seventh graders.
Without a sales force or a distribution network, the couple packed up their truck and traveled throughout the state to sell Utah's Heritage to as many schools as possible. When they proved successful, the company developed additional textbooks and slowly expanded into new states and added new subject categories for the book trade, including home design, cooking, wilderness, and children's books. As the company grew and changed, Gibbs never forgot sharing the barn with cows those first few years. He said, "You could hear them mooing through the walls.... People could hear them over the phone, too." When he would explain the ruckus, the response on the other end of the line would always be the same: "You do what? From where?"
In 1993, the company was renamed Gibbs Smith, Publisher. Over the years, it became an industry leader, creating books on interior design with high-end designers, launching a cookbook line (including a title on the New York Times bestseller list); and growing an impressive children's list. It branched out over the years to include several imprints and brands, including 101 Things to Do With (in 2001), BabyLit (2011), LoveLit (2013), Flying Frog (now 7 Cats Press; 2019), and Spumoni (2020). Every addition had the same goal: to enrich and inspire humankind.
In 2015, Gibbs and Catherine sold the first half of the organization to employees via an ESOP, ensuring their dream would pass to future generations. Last year, employees bought the other half of the company.
Gibbs Smith passed away in 2017. Doug Pfeiffer, former PubWest President, noted that Gibbs had "been a vital part of the Western publishing scene. His reputation as a publisher of high-quality books and a contributor to the community of the book is an inspiration to all publishing businesses across the country."
Jenn Risko, Shelf Awareness Co-founder and Publisher, added: "When I was the National Accounts Manager at Pacific Pipeline, we acted as the vendor of record for most western publishers, and I was in charge of selling them to all the chains. So many of my phone calls were publishers demands. Then there was Gibbs, who would call regularly to say, 'Thank you' and 'How can I help?' He was the consummate publisher: incredible eye and taste, lovely to be around and always thoughtful about how to do better. It is such a joy to see how Brad and the owner-employees at Gibbs have carried out his dreams into a present-day reality."
Edible Wild Plants, Volume 2: Wild Foods from Foraging to Feasting by John Kallas, Ph.D. ($27.99, 9781423641346, May 16)
This is a user-friendly, pictorially based guide providing all readers need to know to start fully enjoying wild foods. It helps them successfully identify plants, develop gathering strategies, and learn preparation and cooking techniques. It lays a foundation and covers plants one is likely to come across on a daily basis in North America or Europe. The book has 460 photographs and illustrations, fun and authoritative text, focused attention on plant details, nutrient tables, range maps, recipes, and a plethora of additional preparation and cooking tips.
This book features plants in five flavor categories: foundation, tart, pungent or peppery, bitter, and distinctive & sweet, an approach that helps readers use the plants in pleasing and predictable ways. Imagine frequently including cattail, nettles, pokeweed, marshmallow, daylily, wild radish, and everlasting pea in your meal planning knowing that you acquired these plants from your own foraging adventures. There is also a section devoted to identifying and knowing poison hemlock, often confused with wild carrot in certain stages of development.
John Kallas is an authority on North American edible wild plants and other foragables, and has learned about wild foods through formal academic training and more than 35 years of hands-on field research. He has a doctorate in nutrition, a master's in education, and degrees in biology and zoology. In 1993, he founded the Institute for the Study of Edible Wild Plants and Other Foragables along with its educational branch, Wild Food Adventures. Located in Portland, Oregon, his company offers regional workshops and multi-day intensives on wild foods.
Puppy Love: An Illustrated Guide to Picking Your Perfect Canine Companion by Melissa Maxwell, illustrated by Sara Mulvanny ($17.99, 9781423663546, May 16)
Taking its cues from online dating, Puppy Love hilariously explores the pros and cons of puppy-parenting different types of canine companions. The perfect gift for any dog lover, these illustrated doggie dating profiles will have you howling with laughter.
Puppy Love delves into the doggie dating scene by first setting the foundation for a successful relationship, including the keys to successful cohabitation and how to know when you've found The One. More than 40 pooch profiles cover everything from grooming, personality, and deal breakers. Love long walks? The short-legged Corgi might struggle to keep up. Have a penchant for expensive, fragile home décor? The gentle giant Great Dane might break your stuff--and your heart. Not sure where to start? Take the Cosmo-inspired quiz to narrow down your matches.
Melissa Maxwell is an editor and author of many books. Sara Mulvanny has worked on a range of projects from books and magazines to large-scale illustrations for museums and restaurants. When not in her studio, she loves to go for walks in the surrounding countryside with Mabel, her Airedale puppy.
Egg Rolls & Sweet Tea: Asian Inspired, Southern Style by Natalie Keng ($32, 9781423661498, June 6)
Ni hao, y'all! Egg Rolls & Sweet Tea: Asian Inspired, Southern Style is in part a memoir of Natalie Keng's personal food journey growing up in the deep South, but it's also a cookbook full of tasty Asian-American and Southern fusion dishes, sauces, and drinks that home cooks will enjoy preparing and sharing. Its 100 recipes celebrate inclusivity and diversity at the dinner table with the best from various cultures, cooking styles, and comforting foods. Among the recipes: Fried Chicken Spring Rolls with Honey; Rainbow Black-Rice Salad; Okra and Tomato Stir-Fry; Black-Eyed Pea Hummus; Georgia Bourbon Coca-Cola Meatloaf; Golden Milk and Sorghum Hot Toddy; and, of course, several recipes for egg rolls and sweet teas.
A pioneer in innovative leadership development, Natalie Keng is the founder and CEO ("Chief Eating Officer") of Global Hearth, a business that leverages the power of food and culture to promote team-building and employee engagement in support of corporate initiatives through its Cooking Up a Better World platform. Locally known as the Chinese Southern Belle, Keng is the creator of an award-winning line of Georgia-grown, Asian-inspired sauces (launched at Whole Foods Market) that feature natural ingredients and old family recipes, earning her the title The Sauce Maven. Before starting her own business, Keng was a strategic marketing executive in a Fortune 100 corporation. Keng is a recipient of the Greater Women's Business Council's Trailblazer Award and was appointed to serve on the Governor's Health Task Force. A graduate of Vassar College, Keng holds a Master of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Southern Lights: Easier, Lighter, and Better-for-You Recipes from the South by Lauren McDuffie ($30, 9781423661474, June 6)
Southern Lights offers a fresh take on Southern-style cooking rooted in the notion that great Southern food doesn't have to be heavy or unhealthy. This is for the modern home cook and has more than 100 recipes for simple Southern food, reimagined and made with less.
Besides remaking traditionally heavy recipes in a more healthful way, Southern Lights shows that some Southern fare is light to begin with (after all, the heart of Southern cooking features fresh, seasonal produce). This will also give readers ways to enjoy favorite Southern dishes more often and includes some seriously delicious Southern powerhouses for breakfasts, lunches, appetizers, snacks, dinners, holiday dishes, desserts, and more. Among the recipes: Sheet Pan Catfish with Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes; Chile-Soaked Watermelon with Smoked Almonds; Creamy Roasted-Garlic Mashed Potatoes; Pimiento Cheese Hummus; Hushpuppy Popovers; and Snow Cream for Southerners.
Lauren McDuffie is a cookbook author (Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest), food blogger, photographer/stylist, and creator of the cooking blog My Kitchen Little and the food blog Harvest and Honey.
U Is for Universe by Greg Paprocki ($12.99, 9781423664796, July 4). This BabyLit alphabet title by illustrator and book designer Greg Paprocki features scientifically accurate and vividly colorful scenes from outer space, including planets, moons, comets, solar flares, black holes, and more.
The Spirited Homes of Hunt Slonem by Brian D. Coleman, photographs by John Neitzel ($75, 9781423663669, September 12). This book focuses on Hunt Slonem's idiosyncratic, maximalist interior design that uses color, antiques, his personal art and objects. Includes a foreword by Whoopi Goldberg and preface by Hunt Slonem.
Design Mixology: The Interiors of Tineke Triggs by Chase Reynolds Ewald and Heather Sandy Hebert ($45, 9781423663683, October 3). Design Mixology focuses on the work of Tineke Triggs, an artist whose interior design work ranges from ski houses, beachfront getaways, reimagined Victorians, and modern homes, all in California. Chase Reynolds Ewald is the author of 14 books on art, travel, design, food, people, and western lifestyle and is a contributing editor to Western Art & Architecture magazine. Heather Sandy Hebert was a marketer at the architecture firm FAIA for more than 25 years and has since worked with authors to tell their stories.
French Country Cottage Christmas by Courtney Allison ($40, 9781423662570, August 29). From the author of French Country Cottage and French Country Cottage Inspired Gatherings, and the blog French Country Cottage, this book is full of luscious photography and provides inspiration on how to celebrate Christmas with French country cottage style.
Gotcha Day!: Adoption Tales of Remarkable Rescue Dogs by Greg Murray ($18.99, 9781423655275, September 26). Animal photographer and rescue and pit bull advocate Greg Murray spotlights the inspiring adoption tales of more than 60 adorable rescue dogs and their forever families.
Houseplant Hookups: All the Dirt You Need to Find the Perfect Match by Agatha Isabel, illustrated by Mai Ly Degnan ($17.99, 9781413663461, October 17). This book offers details on 35 plants and what home and owner characteristics are best for them. Agatha Isabel is a longtime plant lover.
A Modern Guide to Human Design: How to Read Your Chart and Align with Your Life's True Purpose by Rachel Lieberman ($27.99, 9781423664024, October 24). This is the first guide to Human Design, a system that empowers us to allow everyone, including ourselves, to be who they are truly meant to be. Rachel Lieberman has written extensively on the subject on her blog, puregenerators.com.
Magnolias Classic Southern Cuisine: Collected Recipes from the Heart of Charleston by Don Drake ($35, 9781423664000, October 24). Chef Don Drake of Magnolias Restaurant in Charleston, S.C., offers more than 100 recipes from pastry items to poultry and meats to sweets, along with scrumptious side dishes restaurant history, and stories.
Midcentury Modern Style: An Approachable Guide to Inspired Rooms by Karen Nepacena, photographs by Christopher Dibble ($35, 9781423663959, November 14). Designer Karen Nepacena shows that by using just a few design guideposts anyone can make a room feel like a set from Mad Men or The Queen's Gambit. She showcases real-life client redesigns and offers a range of tips and tricks, historical context, and more.
Shut the Front Door: Make Any Space Feel Bigger, Better, and More Beautiful Without Going Broke by Chelsey Brown ($32, 9781423662556, November 14). In Shut the Front Door, author and TV personality Chelsey Brown, creator of the blog City Chic Decor, shows how, with some creativity, people can redesign any space in their homes economically while having fun.