I love pop-up businesses. We’ve talked before about how to get building owners to host pop-up businesses in empty buildings. You can also host pop-ups inside existing businesses, but business owners have a slightly different set of concerns than building owners.
First, let’s talk about who benefits.
The pop-up business gets the chance to introduce themselves to the existing customers of the host business, try out their business idea, make sales to generate cash flow, improve their customer service skills, improve their business management abilities, and learn from the host business. They get all of this without having to incur the overhead of starting a permanent store of their own.
The host business benefits, too. It gets new traffic from the pop-ups existing customers, gets additional exposure in media or online for playing host, gets to observe new business ideas and gains inspiration.
Despite the benefits to the host business, it can be tough to convince an existing business to host a pop-up business inside their business. Any change is hard, and business owners are rightfully cautious about turning their floor space over to an unknown.
Here are a few ideas a group of regional leaders came up with at an event in Kendrick, Idaho.
Make it benefit a local cause
Perhaps the pop-up business will donate a portion of sales to a local non-profit. Maybe a local group can create a pop-up event to raise money. Either way, when it’s for a good cause, it’s easier to say yes.
Let the cause be the pop-up
What if the local non-profit actually ran a pop-up? We’ve all seen bake sales and fundraisers on tables inside local businesses. Take that a step further and let a business host a pop-up from that group, maybe even for a few weeks.
Talk about the big vision for downtown
If this is in a business district or downtown, talk to the business owner about what you’re trying to create. You’re imagining a downtown full of life and activity, where people are happy to spend time and where community happens when people talk to each other. Help the business owner see how they are going to play a part in that.
Talk about giving back to new business owners
Most successful business owners got that way partly because someone helped them along. Ask them about their mentors, people who helped them learn the basics of business. Listen attentively to their stories. Then talk to them about the people they will be helping to get started in business with this pop-up.
Ask them to host their own family member’s pop-up
I love this idea, especially if you are running a pop-up event where you want to get a lot of pop-ups at the same time. Ask the business owner if they have a family member or close friend who could make a good pop-up.
Share success stories
We all like to reduce risk by knowing an idea has a track record of success with people just like us. Look for other “business inside a business” success stories in your own town you can share.
Joann Schissel shared her success with me via emial:
My partner and I have a winery business (Nearwood Winery). He makes the wine and I’m in charge of customer experience. We have a small tasting room on the square in Knoxville. We’ve found that pop-up shops or a one-time event seems to bring in customers. Our next community event is “Living Windows” which kicks off the holiday shopping season. We invited a crafter to set up her “shop” inside our wine tasting room for that evening. She sells hand made gift bags that hold a bottle of wine. Other pop ups we’ve had is book signings by local authors and art exhibits by local artists. All these type of promos seem to bring in customers. We try to focus on products/services that enhance the wine experience. Our motto is “where creatives gather.”
Remember, you’re in a small town. That gives you an advantage in building relationships with business owners. Do your homework. Find out what they care about and what is likely to get them to say yes. Include plenty of benefit to them, give them a chance to be the hero for the community and make it super easy and a small step to say yes the first time. Then it can only get easier from there.
Have you had success getting business owners to work with pop-ups? What has worked for you?
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.