10 Things I Learned from my First Pop Up Shop
WHY I STOPPED HOLDING BACK
Earlier this year, something shifted in my brain and I decided to finally start taking myself seriously as a business woman (you can read about why here.) I’ve been plugging along for about six years, working to grow a YouTube channel, Instagram and of course my blog. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I had always dreamed that someday, when everything truly began to take off and I was this world famous success story, I would start a business. I could see the headlines already!
“Girlboss, Veronica Reitz, Starts the Fashion Line the World Has Been Waiting for at the Mere Age of 18! (in addition to curing cancer, traveling the entire planet and starring as the lead role in the latest block buster hit!)”
Is that an extremely long headline? Yes, yes it is.
Am I overly ambitious? Yes, yes I am.
The only problem with being born with so much determination though, is that it’s often accompanied by a healthy dose of perfectionism, fear of failure and fear of rejection.
Which means that “the mere age of 18” came and went, right along with ages 19-24. And as I was reluctantly stepping into my 24th year, I felt a whopping sense of guilt and an existential crisis starting to creep onto the scene. I hadn’t achieved a fraction of the things I planned on achieving by then and despite the fact that I’m still quite young, I felt time slipping away at an uncomfortable rate. It seemed to me that this was now or never.
I was done waiting around for someone else to give me permission or tell me it was time.
If I wanted to start pursuing my career as an entrepreneur, it was time to get serious.
HOW IT CAME TOGETHER
I had a bit of experience selling things on Etsy
and Ebay, but I was never clear on my branding or my goals. However, after years of changing blog names, trying different styles and finally finding my own voice, I was ready at last to open up the Wear is She Now online boutique!
And I felt a celebration was in order! I’ve always had a penchant for Pop Up Shops. I love the novelty of them, the excitement factor that comes from knowing it’s only there for a limited time and the creativity behind them!
So I imagined hosting my own Pop Up Shop/launch party!
Essentially, this was going to be a yard sale on steroids. I didn’t have the funds, the know how or the inventory to rent out a proper space. But my friends and I had done some yard sales in the past and gotten really creative with them. I wanted to try taking things up a notch and use this as a chance for some exposure and trial run for something bigger in the future. I knew it wouldn’t be perfect, but I’d spent far too much time avoiding my dreams because of my perfectionism.
At this point, I was ready to take the plunge no matter what.
From my experiences with yard sales in the past, I noticed that the biggest issue was attracting the right clientele. I was selling my pre-loved clothes and a lot of the potential customers who showed up weren’t interested in buying them. They were more excited about little knickknacks and comic books. I took this as a challenge to find an incentive for my target demographic to come!
So I came up with this idea to host a raffle. I knew I wanted to market it on Instagram since that’s where a majority of my local following is, so I wanted to raffle off something that would be valuable to those following my page.
I came up with “The Insta-Famous Starter Pack: everything you need for a flawless feed!”
My dream was to fill it with gift cards to some of the most Instagrammable places around
and other exciting goodies that any instagram lover would die for! But I was already pouring a ton of money into something I knew I would be lucky just to break even on, so I referred back to all the stories I’d read of clever business owners getting their crazy ideas funded and did something I’d never done before.
I pitched about 15 local businesses to see if they’d be interested in collaborating on my endeavor. I was prepared for all of them to turn me down. But to my surprise, nearly half of them said yes!
By the end of it, the basket was worth over $200 and the most I’d spent on it was $6 for the actual basket itself. I built a selfie station and made up 2 ways to enter the raffle.
1. Follow me on Instagram and share your pictures from the event using #wearisshenowpopup.
2. Buy anything and automatically get entered!
I figured that this would help increase sales and marketing by encouraging people to share! It didn’t exactly work out that way, but we’ll get to that later.
And then just to double down on the whole incentive thing, I bought a cheap cotton candy maker and gave away free cotton candy to anyone who wanted it.
I spent the next two months pouring every ounce of my free time into planning, building, marketing,
and personally inviting potential customers. I made flyers and hung them all around town in places I thought my target demographic might see them. I revamped my website by purchasing my own domain name, updating the design and adding a “shop” tab. I bought a white tent, a bunch of decorations and had my dad help me build a lemonade stand out of palette boards that a friend of mine kindly gave me. I printed out a butt load of coupons for 20% off my online store
and handed one out to every single customer.
In the end, things didn’t come out exactly the way that I’d hoped. But I was kind of prepared for that. I knew that no matter what happened, it would be a learning experience and it certainly was! So today, here are 10 things I learned from my first Pop Up Shop!
WHAT I LEARNED FROM RUNNING A POP UP SHOP
1. THE BEST WAY TO LEARN IS BY DOING
I could have spent several more years planning, dreaming and scheming until everything felt right. But guess what? It rarely ever feels like the right time. When you’re about to embark on a new journey, it will always feel scary and you’ll most likely question yourself to the point of analysis paralysis. There will always be a million reasons not to do something, but you have to push past all that and just START. Your creative brain can come up with a countless amount of scenarios as to how things will go when you do take the plunge, but no information is as valuable as the information you get by just going for it!
KEY LESSON LEARNED: Stop making excuses and start doing.
2. THE MARKET TELLS YOU WHAT IT WANTS, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND
I decided to host my shop for 2 days. On the first day, I was shocked and quite disappointed to see that much of my hard work was lost on people. My sister had set up her own table in the back of my shop to sell some of her old tchotchkes and I never expected it generate the response that it did. Right as you walked up to the yard, you would see my giant white tent covered in streamers and a big balloon banner that read “Wear is She Now.” I had set up the clothes and shoes like a real store, with mannequins and everything!
But despite my best efforts, a majority of people blew right past all my hard work to pick through my sister’s miscellaneous assortment of trinkets.
At first, I was extremely frustrated and upset. What was so special about a used coffee mug with a picture of a moose on it? But I was only coming from my own perspective. Sure, that’s not what I would be looking for, but if that’s what my customers wanted, then I had to deliver! So the next day, I put my pride aside and interspersed a bunch of random knickknacks throughout my clothing displays. I thought it looked messy, and not at all how I envisioned it.
But guess what? My sales almost doubled.
People stopped to take a look at the random stuff I put out and when they did, they also took note of the clothes. It got their attention, it was what they wanted, not what I wanted. Any entrepreneur will tell you that one of the most important abilities you can possess as a business owner, is the ability to listen and I learned that first hand that day.
KEY LESSON LEARNED: Don’t let your pride and vision get in the way of listening to what your customers want.
3. ALWAYS PROVIDE VALUE
Another vital ability to cultivate as an entrepreneur is knowing how to provide value though everything you do. Yes, I was hosting an event, for the launch of my new business endeavor. But at the end of the day, it really wasn’t about me and I learned this multiple ways while running my Pop Up Shop.
First of all, the way in which I approached the local businesses I was hoping to collaborate with for the raffle was very careful. I did not go to them and talk about myself and my brilliant new plan. I introduced myself, yes. I told them about the event, yes.
The key was, I lead with why it would benefit them to be a part of it.
I offered to do something in return for them and let them know that this would be helpful for their own marketing efforts. I doubt it would have been nearly as successful had I approached them with a sense of entitlement.
Secondly, as I mentioned before, I had to learn to provide exactly what my customers wanted. First, you have to listen, but then you have to give. Once you know what people are looking for, give it to them! Your vision is valuable and important but it’s not as important as your customer’s needs.
KEY LESSON LEARNED: Everything you do should be an act of service, not entitlement.
4. BE CRYSTAL CLEAR
Like I mentioned previously, I spent a lot of effort building a selfie station and putting together the raffle basket, but as much as I hate to admit, few people noticed them. I had set up the selfie booth in the back, behind a lot of the displays and quite far away. There wasn’t much drawing attention to it so unless I specifically pointed it out, it went unnoticed.
I had attempted to display the raffle basket a little more boldly but I realized later that many people were confused by it. I had forgotten, yet again, to think from the perspective of my customers. They weren’t expecting to come to a yard sale and enter into a raffle or strike a pose at a selfie station.
They had no idea that the basket was worth over $200 and that I’d worked my ass off to put it together.
When I noticed that no one giving it a second look, I greeted each person and told them right away that we were hosting a raffle and that a bunch of local businesses donated to it. You have to respect your customers time. Many of them are in a rush, they aren’t always paying attention and it’s your job to make that they are.
KEY LESSON LEARNED: Don’t make your customers do the work. Make everything clear, simple and noticeable.
5. KEEP TRYING EVEN AFTER YOU FAIL
Failure is a hard part of every journey, but it’s also an extremely necessary one. In fact, we often learn the most from our failures. There was a lot that didn’t happen the way I expected or hoped, and a lot that took me by surprise, in both good ways and bad. But the most important thing you can do from there is keep going. Don’t let it break you or discourage you. It’s all part of the process. Playing it safe keeps you from failing but it also keeps you from growing.
The goal is to move on and do things smarter next time.
You don’t want to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. You want to gather information for the purpose of using it to make you better and brighter so that the next time you try, because you will try again, you get a little closer to your goal.
KEY LESSON LEARNED: Failure is not the end, it’s part of the process.
6. DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL
Being such a head strong, determined person means that I have a tendency to get a little blindsided by my own ambition. Sometimes, you can be screaming the right message to the wrong neighborhood. I love to be big, and bold and extra and I don’t do anything half assed. I put my heart and soul into this Pop Up Shop and I worked my ass off to market it to the right people. But at the end of the day, while I saw this as my first Pop Up Shop, my break out moment taking the world by storm, the world saw it as just a yard sale. And most of the people coming to yard sales, didn’t understand what I was trying to accomplish. They attract an older crowd, one that doesn’t often understand the value of selfie stations and Insta-famous starter packs.
Don’t get me wrong! There was a handful of lovely people who totally got it and shared nothing but wonderful words of support! But I’m talking majority here, and most of the people that turned up were not interested in a young woman’s pre-loved clothes. Some of them even confessed that they were confused by my display.
Some mentioned they didn’t stop by at first because they thought it was a private party while others literally laughed when I offered them free cotton candy or a chance to win a basket of goodies worth $200+.
I realized something very important. I could spend all of my time trying to rebrand what yard sales have been for as long as I can remember, or I could pour all of that hard work, time and energy into a market that is already built to appreciate that kind of hard work. I believe in myself and my ideas, but I was trying to reinvent the wheel. My goal was never to continuously have yard sales anyway, but it taught me a lot about about letting your creativity roam in the right spaces and it pushed me to want to take the next step of my journey.
KEY LESSON LEARNED: Spend your time and energy wisely by showcasing great ideas in the right space.
7. DON’T EXPECT EVERYONE TO SEE YOUR VISION
Sometimes, when you have these fantastic, passion fueled visions, it’s hard to imagine that others won’t be quite as excited as you are. You may be met with negativity, or worse, silence. But don’t let this discourage you. Plan to show and not tell.
People have a much easier time coming around when they see the proof and that’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way.
I was sitting on my couch literally shaking with nerves and excitement to send out the big text I’d prepared a month prior, announcing my Pop Up Shop to my friends. I had imagined the moment over and over in my head so many times. Everyone would be so thrilled for me, right?!
Hardly anyone answered. It was a bit painful and disheartening, but I had to wise up. It’s no one else’s job to be as invested in your endeavors as you are. You will have to earn most people’s enthusiasm by actually delivering on your incredible ideas. And if you’re lucky enough to have anyone that supports your visions right off the bat, treat them like the absolute gems they are.
KEY LESSON LEARNED: You have to be fully invested in your passions before anyone else is.
8. CHOOSE YOUR TEAM WISELY
This is one of the most important lessons I learned throughout this whole Pop Up Shop experience. I rarely want to trust anyone else with my ideas and visions, but the reality of running a business is that you need help. But more importantly, you need the right help.
Your team can make or break you so when choosing who you want to be a part of your journey, choose wisely.
I learned a lot about who I can count on, who is unreliable, who’s willing to be helpful and who is unable to follow directions. In the midst of a crisis, will you and your team be able to cope? Does your team work well together?
At one point during the first day of my Pop Up Shop, it felt like everything was going wrong and the stress of it all broke me down to tears. But my boyfriend swooped in, helped me figure out every situation that was going wrong and wouldn’t let me return to the shop until I called myself a girlboss “like you mean it!” and started smiling again.
I’m grateful to be with such a supportive partner, but this isn’t always the case. It’s very common to have plenty of friends and family members, people you really love, who disappoint you, or who even go out of their way to make things harder for you. It’s sad, but it’s a reality.
KEY LESSON LEARNED: Every person you love does not have to be a part of your team, but every person on your team should be someone you love.
|My wonderful boyfriend bought the whole team Pizza 🙂
9. STOP WAITING AROUND
One of the proudest lessons I learned from trying my hand at a Pop Up Shop was realizing just how much time is wasted by telling yourself you’re not ready. Remember how I mentioned that I pitched 15 different brands to help me out with the raffle? Well right before I pitched my first one, I was dragging my feet SO. MUCH. I had given myself a ton of silly restrictions and conditions before I could ask.
For example: “They won’t take me seriously if I don’t have business cards.”
But I had direct messaged them all through Instagram, so having business cards didn’t even matter. I realized that I was just looking for a bunch of excuses and using perfectionism as a way to procrastinate because I was afraid of rejection. And then one day, I just did it. I didn’t feel ready, I didn’t feel professional, but I asked anyway. And more people than I ever expected to, actually said yes.
KEY LESSON LEARNED: Be mindful of the stories you’re telling yourself as to why can’t do something. The biggest thing in your way is often you.
10. YOU GET TO DEFINE SUCCESS
No matter what happens, how you define success is your choice. There is no Success Police coming to monitor your results. Even your failures can be considered successes but at the same time, even the most magical moments in your career can be painted as failures if you’re always looking at the glass half empty. Any time you’re putting yourself out there, trying something new and going against the grain, that’s a cause for celebration if you ask me! There was a lot I had hoped would go differently during my Pop Up Shop, but there was also a lot to be proud of. I say, if you learned something, that’s success in it’s own right. It’s not that you aren’t successful at smaller levels, it’s just that your success begins to get bigger and bigger as you grow too!
KEY LESSON LEARNED: Success is relative to each person. Don’t forget to celebrate even the smallest wins!
So there you have it beautiful boss babes! I hope this was helpful for whatever goal you might be trying to achieve! Just know that I’m rooting for you and I’m here to answer whatever questions you might have! Good luck on your journey and remember that the world is your runway!
With peace, love and pixie dust,