David vs. Goliath

  @FortuneMagazine October 31, 2013: 7:08 AM ET
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A bookseller, a web-software provider, and a temp-hiring app all show how a tiny player can rock a giant (or at least avoid its punches).

Barefoot Books vs. Scholastic

The challenge: Finding the right way to sell children's books.

What she did: Nancy Traversy isn't afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. Her publishing house, Barefoot Books, known for beautifully illustrated children's classics like Animal Boogie, pulled out of national store chains years ago because they made her eat large quantities of unsold books; she severed her relationship with Amazon this year out of frustration over its discounting of her products. Now the firm, based in Cambridge, Mass., sells via partnerships with companies like Lakeshore Learning and a network of home-based sellers called Ambassadors. "We've gone in the opposite direction of most publishers," says Traversy, 52. The 21-year-old company, which she says is profitable, is making strides, projecting $7 million in revenue for 2013, up $1 million since last year. Meanwhile, it has marched into the digital age with its award-winning Barefoot World Atlas app for the iPhone and iPad, already downloaded 4 million times.

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