Many of you will undoubtedly know that we recently held a pop up down in Old Street Station. During the aftermath a lot of people have been asking us what we made of this latest venture and what we learned from it. "How do you start with this?" "What would you do better next time?" "Did you achieve what you wanted to achieve?" "How do you predict demand and supply?" "Are you still alive?" The latter I can already answer. Yes! We are still alive and still kicking. The rest I'll answer in the blogpost below.
It’s an interesting journey setting up your first bricks and mortar pop-up. At ProToGo we are big advocates of the collaborative economy, so we’re happy to share what we've learned, earned and burned. The glory moments, the pitfalls, the truth, and nothing more.
So, here’s the answers to the questions as promised.
1. How do you even start?
The very first thing to do is putting together a to do-list with a clear colour code (done=green, in progress=orange, error=red) and share it on Google Drive with your team. You can assign the tasks here, and when there is no time to give a heads up, you'll be able to identify the progress (or regress) of each task just by the colour code. The to do-list will grow, until the day you open the pop-up, but that's a sign you're on it. The next step is going out to other pop up stores to gather as much information from them as possible. Footfall hours, number of people coming in every day, conversion rate, where they got their furniture from, how did they apply their window signage. Literally ask them everything. Even if they are not in the same industry as you are, they can give you so much valuable information. Shout out here to James of Chilly's Bottles and Stephanie of Pollen+Grace. They both got back to me with some very valuable numbers, contacts and to do's. That brings me to the next topic: supply and demand.
2. How do you predict supply & demand?
This one is a hard one, and no supply/demand- or IS/LM-curve will do the trick here. The best way is, as mentioned above, asking others who have been there before. I got some numbers from Stephanie and James and then took into account things such as holiday-season, pay day etc. But that is only one side of the deal. Next to this, you also have to calculate your break-even point and your production capacity. You might have to sell X, and your demand might be X+100, but are you able to supply this? I wish I could tell you there is a formula for this, but if you're early stage as we are, the answer is just trial and error. I found out that, demand was high (woohoo) but the capacity to deal with it was too low. And that is not a horrible thing. It's a good problem to have. We've learned that we need to hire a chef (another blog post on that will be up soon)!
3. Did you achieve what you wanted to achieve?
Yes! Yes! Yes! The key is here to set reasonable, yet ambitious, goals. The goals CANNOT only be financially; they have to cover all topics such as brand awareness, marketing, networking, and last but not least, learning-targets.
What I want to say is that running a pop-up store is the BEST learning experience ever towards running a permanent store one day. Don't just run it, but analyze and question every single tiny situation, experience and item. For example, blaming a bad sales day on the weather or footfall does not make sense when the weather was the same already for 5 days in a row. Analyze what you were doing and try out different approaches every day. One of my friends started dancing while she was sampling outside the store and guess what, during those 5 minutes so many people came in! We learned about logistics, packaging, customers, staff training, choice of music and its influence on sales, operations and so much more. So what I wanted ProToGo to achieve, besides selling and getting the brand out there, was gaining knowledge. And we definitely succeeded in that one.
4. What would you do better next time?
For the next pop up:
-We will have a chef!
-We will change packaging
-We will train staff with exact guidelines (we were all just doing, but a little structure never hurt anyone)
-We will decide more carefully on the time-period we pick (no holiday periods, bank holidays or 'right-before-payday-situations'). If you only have two weeks, than pick out the best ones?
-We'll boost our social media way more
-We will hire an acrobat in a broccoli costume doing backflips in front of the store (no joke)
Enough talking for now. Before we head to the last question, here is a real-life experience behind the scenes. The video is made by our friends of Kitchup. We rent our kitchen via them and they are an amazing support to ProToGo.
5. Are you still alive?
I already answered that one, but here' s a little more on that. I am very lucky to have amazing family and friends supporting me in every way they possibly can. I had banker friends giving out samples after a long day at work. I had architect friends explaining the products to customers like they never did something else in their lives. I even had my dad helping me out in the kitchen for one week, and believe me, it's not that he likes cooking. And mostly, I had an amazing ProToGo team running the store while I was cooking in the kitchen. Next to this, big thanks as well to the Ministry of Startups, NIX&KIX, THAT protein, Appear Here, Kitchup and everyone else that made this very big step happening.
Founder of ProToGo