LOCAL: Building a Creative Community
When we first put together the idea of Designers Collective, we wanted to fill a void in our local design community. We knew that there were (and still are!) so many talented makers just emerging into the market or trying to reach a wider audience. As designers, we felt a kinship with our fellow creatives and decided to organize a series of Pop Up shops to give these local makers a physical space to showcase their product lines.
The ease of offering products online completely changed the retail landscape– it made products so much more accessible, but meeting clients face-to-face became tricky. Enter LOCAL Pop Ups! From textiles and furniture to fine art and fine jewellery and quite a bit in-between, we collaborated with several local makers to provide that all-important bricks-and-mortar-storefront with a bit of our own flourish! Our own design practice has grown, but we will never forget those early days of building community and collaborating with other makers and designers.
What’s in a Collective?
As a Collective, we’ve come a long way since our first few Pop Up shops and we are excited that many of our original ‘LOCAL’ participants have grown over the past couple years. The original concept behind our Pop Up shops was to build a community, or collective if you will, of emerging local makers and artisans and provide spaces and events where they could meet clients face-to-face to expand their brand. With this platform in mind, we set out to host vendors and create a hub for a design-oriented community…
What are some key ingredients?
A Great Venue: Like any event, the venue can really set the tone. We’ve used our own studio spaces, a beautiful commercial art gallery, and storefronts; each space coordinated the style and vibe of our vendors to create a really cohesive ‘shop’. Our shops were also successful because of accessibility. Having high street visibility, available parking, and nearby transit provided us with lots of walk-ins who didn’t know they needed a new book or lovely potted succulent.
A Kick Off: A little party never hurt nobody right? Right. In fact, our kick-off party was a great opportunity not only to welcome our first pop up shoppers but to celebrate with all the vendors. After a full day of setting up and styling merchandise, some light refreshments and chatting go a long way! Vendors met with clients and with the relaxed atmosphere of our kick-off transactions felt more like a meet-and-greet than a sales pitch.
Stories: With buying local comes the opportunity to meet the maker. What we came to realized over hosting several of these Pop Ups is that people want to know your story. Why did you make this product? What inspired you? What experiences led you to this? Why did you choose these materials? The list goes on… Having these stories and ties to the community really forged a lasting connection between the shoppers and our vendors.
What are some lessons learned?
Invite fewer vendors than you think: We learned how to tailor the number of vendors to the space… then subtract one or two spots. You could squeeze in a couple more, but then risk having some vendors pushed into an awkward corner or every vendor having to sacrifice valuable display space. The key is to have generous display areas as well as walkways that can accommodate your shoppers and their (many) bags of goodies! We have also needed to account for product storage, seating, and a refreshment area… so don’t go vendor-crazy before you have all your other needs met.
Variety of product-lines: The idea is to foster multiple purchases, not have a competition between vendors. As per the spirit of our collective, our aim is to foster a creative community. Mixing textiles with furniture and homewares alongside beauty products, food, and accessories makes for an interesting shop for customers and also an presents an opportunity for vendors to meet other makers outside of their specialties.
Cross-platform, cross-list promotion: Promotion is always a collaborative effort. Having a group of even 3 vendors will likely expand your promotional reach 300%– 5-10 vendors? That’s a fantastic mailing list. Beyond emails and newsletters, we made sure to promote on multiple social media platforms as well as with good ol’ fashioned paper. And you can never start promotion too early! But you can definitely start it too late…
We do miss our Pop Up days… while we don’t have any curated Pop Ups planned in the near future, we always support our local creatives when we can! Be it posting their shops on our Collective Calendar or hosting them at our studio for shorter Pop Ups and trunk shows (listed on our events page here)… Here’s to supporting local!
Have an idea for a Pop Up? A past participant in our LOCAL Pop Up Shops? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org !