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 Tuesday February 23,2010

By Bonnie Estridge

It’s a new phenomenon by which entrepreneurs open temporary firms to make a quick profit

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BUSINESS WITH PLEASURE: Londoners Lucy Harrison and Camilla Webb-Carter with their home-cooked food

IT IS 9pm and two dozen thirty somethings are seated in a Victorian basement flat in Battersea, South-west London, enjoying a lavish meal. Having been greeted at the door with a cocktail, they enjoy a starter of salmon ceviche followed by beef Wellington and whisky ice cream.

The atmosphere is that of a typical dinner party with the hosts rushing around keeping everyone happy. However, all is not quite as it seems. This is the first time any of the guests have been in the flat or even met the hosts for that matter.

They are having a meal at a private home at a location which was not known until a few days previously when the address was announced via the host’s blog on the internet.

So far as the funding for this evening goes, there is no actual bill – hostesses Camilla Webb-Carter, 26, a designer and Lucy Harrison, a 27-year-old teacher, have asked the diners to bring their own wine and make a minimum “donation” of £20 per head.

Debbie Bryan, who sells fashion accessories in Nottingham and Lewis Heath of Glasgow with his headphones

Some might even feel moved to pay more as they are enjoying being patrons of the “pop-up” trend, a phenomenon flourishing during the recession.

The business term “pop-up” applies to a temporary – sometimes as temporary as just one hour – enterprise such as a restaurant, shop or exhibition. The idea is to make money directly from the enterprise or indirectly by generating publicity from it which could draw attention to an existing business which perhaps needs a boost.

For example, the “pop-up restaurant” – as in Camilla and Lucy’s case – may happen only once a month but if the pair are interested in starting their own “real” restaurant this could be an ideal way of testing the water as to how well their cooking is received.

Most useful of all, having the pop-up shop has definitely drawn attention to my business

There are even more transitory – and rather more public pop-up eateries – such as the Patron Silver Reindeer – a temporary restaurant opened by entrepreneurs Pablo Flack and David Waddington. Diners ate inside a hastily assembled huge square box, which appeared in a studio space in Holloway, East London.

Then there was Franks Café & Campari Bar – on the 10th floor of a multistorey car park in Peckham, south London – accessed by ramps as the lift stops at the 6th – where crab on toast, gazpacho and cold grilled lamb were just a few of the delights.

The request for donations to cover costs means that diners are not paying in the formal sense. However being able to cover plenty of “heads” by providing food (and somewhere to eat it) in large vacant spaces means that the entrepreneurial restaurateur can, in theory, make a fantastic living.

Retail is another way in which the pop-up business can flourish and some have benefited from local authority schemes which provide help for individuals who are keen to have a temporary high-street presence which they could otherwise never afford.

Often these pop-ups utilise shops that have been left empty due to businesses that have failed – a facet of high streets that has become depressingly familiar in the recession

With this in mind last year, Wayne and Geraldine Hemingway – who started the Red Or Dead fashion range – came up with the idea of KioskKiosk an innovative standalone metal unit complete with windows and shelves to help small creative businesses get a foot on the ladder at a time when affordable retail space is hard to find.

The first KioskKiosk was opened in London last July and a few months later it “popped up” in Nottingham where Debbie Bryan – who has a business selling fashion accessories – was given the chance to have a temporary shop rent free in the main high street. “I was delighted as it meant that my business would for a short while be in a more high-profile location, ” says 40-year-old Debbie. “The Lace Market is not a prime shopping area, it’s pretty much off the beaten track.

So having the pop-up in the high street really helped by drawing attention to the fact that I also have a permanent business nearby.

“Nottingham City Council let me have the two-square-metre KioskKiosk free – they funded it as part of an initiative to showcase creative talent in the City. I have been in here on and off since October and the opportunity to have a high-street presence has been fantastic.

“Most useful of all, having the pop-up shop has definitely drawn attention to my business and I’m selling more than ever.”

RETAIL guru and TV personality Mary Portas had fantastic success with a pop-up charity shop which opened for just three weeks in London’s Westfield shopping centre. Another star of the fashion world, Lulu Guinness, opened a two week pop-up shop in Carnaby Street to coincide with London Fashion Week and Valentine’s Day thus doing an extremely brisk trade selling a range of lip-shaped collectables including brightly-coloured Perspex clutch-bags at £40 each.

As 27-year-old entrepreneur Lewis Heath admits, pop-ups give you the sort of quick, cheap exposure that all new businesses need.

He’s the founder of Audio Chi which markets premium headphones. Four months ago he was selling online only but felt that he was not getting the attention – nor the sales – that he needed.

So when the chance came up to take a shop for a temporary period in Glasgow’s famous Prince’s Square for a nominal rent he took the opportunity to get his product noticed and took the space as a pop-up shop.

“I signed a short lease from December to January and the idea was to capture the Christmas market. We set up the shop so that people could try out the products and made it so that they could sit down, relax and listen to music. They could buy the headphones if they wanted, but our purpose in having a popup shop was not necessarily to sell the product but to get the brand noticed. People would come in curious to see what was going on and leave knowing about the headphones which would help push our sales online as well as through John Lewis and Harvey Nichols who also stock them.

“The shop was a brilliant way of getting us out there without spending money on advertising or PR and the orders have really been coming in.”

However, Camilla Webb-Carter and Lucy Harrison of Altenburg Kitchen – the Battersea pop-up restaurant – look at their own business in a different way.

“Once or twice a month we open our doors to cook for people who more often than not we have never met before.
“It’s great to be able to do this from home rather than an outside space, it’s far more convenient. We have no ambition to use our evenings as a tool to go on and open a restaurant we simply get a great deal of pleasure out of people enjoying our food.

“We have day jobs, but this is a lovely way of having fun and making pocket money when times are hard.”

For information about KioskKiosk pop-up units, contact 020 8903 1074         020 8903 1074.


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