The pop-up specialists kick-starting business

The Dandy Lab is a We Are Pop Up shop in Spitalfields Pic: We Are Pop Up

The Dandy Lab is a We Are Pop Up shop in Spitalfields Pic: We Are Pop Up

Meet We Are Pop Up, a business that helps people find unique pop-up spaces to start their own enterprises: the latest winners of the Mayor of Hackney’s Business of the Year Award.

We Are Pop Up beat 10 other Hackney businesses to win the award, voted for by the public.

Abigail Freeman, a spokeswoman for the Hoxton-based company says that the idea “unleashes the latent creativity of people in cities around the world, by connecting them with short-term retail space.”

Freeman said: “We work with creative, real-world concepts which I think uniquely positions us at the cross-section of the sectors that are important to the borough – tech and creative industries.”

“Since we first launched We Are Pop Up, customers from 22 different countries have used the service to book over 42 years worth of pop up space.”

Founding CEO Nicholas Russell worked with artist Mike Salter to create his own crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter which blossomed into the company as it currently is. The pair ran a gallery for two months in an empty shop front on Earlham Street in the Seven Dials district.

Pic: We Are Pop Up

We Are Pop Up’s founding CEO Nicholas Russell Pic: We Are Pop Up

Russell explains: “We would raise £10,000 by pre-selling shows to London artists on Kickstarter. Artists we spoke to loved the idea, but the landlord only let the shop for a year or longer. Rent, deposit, legal costs and agencies ballooned the budget to well over £100,000. There was no way we could do it.”

“Shortly after, I was explaining to a friend, Alastair Moore, that the Kickstarter campaign had fallen through. We wondered what would happen if we built an Airbnb for retail shops.”

The launch of We Are Pop Up’s ShopShare scheme is promising for the future of independent brands. They are able to rent a shelf, rail or concession within a shop: “We enable brands to connect to build relationships. We have an entire social network for creative retailers, which encourages brands to meet each other.”

The service has over 24,000 brands using spaces across over 100 countries around the world. Recently, for example, a brand from Cape Town used space in Soho and Shoreditch to bring homemade handbags from townships in South Africa right to the heart of London Fashion Week.

Freeman attributes the popularity of the service to “stripping out all of the hassle and providing brands with a powerful tool and network to grow their business.”

“Hackney is one of London’s creative and entrepreneurial epicenters, and our early – and current – customers reflect that spirit and drive. Hackney remains one of our most sought-after destinations, and we’re proud to be a Hackney business through and through.”

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