Looking back, I guess I’ve always been an accidental entrepreneur. I never really set out to run my own business; I always did it to fulfill a need.
It was the same when I started a craft fair. I’d been looking for a birthday present for a friend and really wanted something handmade – something with a bit of creativity and integrity. My city is full of shops selling stuff, but I wanted something special, not something from a retail chain with identical franchises up and down the country. However, no matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find an independent retailer that satisfied my needs. I decided that if the solution didn’t already exist locally, I would provide it.
I like the temporary and transient nature of craft fairs. They’re more like events or experiences than regular shops. As a multipotentialite, I’m not sure I’d be able to commit to running a business that involved leasing a shop for years.
In the world of physical businesses, there haven’t been too many openings for us accidental entrepreneurs to play with short-term retail opportunities, until recently.
Enter the world of the pop-up shop
For anyone who’s not come across pop-up shops, they’re basically very short-term shop leases (lasting anywhere from a day to a month), which open up in vacant retail units.
In the past, these gaps on the high street or in the mall would have been filled by temporary close down retailers – often companies specialized in buying cheaply made, mass-produced stock which they acquire through liquidation sales.
Things have changed dramatically since the last recession. Since the stock market falls in the late noughties, there have been an increasing number of vacant retail units. Empty retail units can impact badly on trade for remaining store holders. Many landlords are now prepared to offer short-term leases to help bring vibrancy back to their empty properties.
The new brand of pop-up shop is the independent boutique, the brainchild of a younger, more creative entrepreneur.
Where previously the financial commitment of a long term lease would have prevented anyone without serious dollars taking on a store, now anyone can get a prime location for a short period of time.
To me, that sounds like the perfect project for a multipotentialite. A short-term, time-limited opportunity to try something new. All the fun without any of the commitment.
What can you do with a pop-up shop?
1) Hold an exhibition
Gallery space is often charged at a premium or offered only to very few and carefully chosen artists. The pop-up shop can work as a space to put on an exhibition and get your work seen by a brand new audience. Use the space for a solo or group show, exhibiting anything from custom painted skateboards or video installations, to the acoustic launch of your latest album.
2) Run your own independent boutique (for a week)
Always fancied making stuff but never known whether you’d really enjoy it? Here’s the chance to test out your ideas in a real retail environment.
To give you some ideas, in the past year I’ve visited stores selling custom screen-printed t-shirts, handmade bags and upcycled jewelry from recycled materials.
Many of these shops use creative display techniques (like old apple crates for shelves or clothes lines with items pegged to them) to transform the interiors into designer-style boutiques.
3) Host an interactive community
There’s a community vegetable-growing project near where I live. This group regularly rents out a pop-up shop as a way to interact with locals. It’s partly an exhibition, partly an educational workshop, and partly a chance to canvass the views of people in the community.
If you’re interested in community development, maybe a pop-up shop could provide you with a location from which to interact with people and to promote your project.
These are just a few ideas of innovative ways to use the pop-up shop concept. I’m sure you can think of many more ways and I’d be really interested to hear your ideas.
Have you ever considered opening a shop, either in the form of a long-term commitment or as a pop-up? Do you have any unusual or innovative ideas for using a shop space?