Hey guys! A few weeks ago after our first West Elm Pop Up Shop, we asked if y’all would be interested in hearing the behind-the-scenes scoop: how everything went down and what we learned in the process. And your response was a big “yes!” across the board! So today, as we prep for our next show on November 12th, we are here to spill the beans.
**UPDATE** We recently made a video about everything we’ve learned since becoming official wholesale vendors to West Elms in Texas and getting even more experience selling online and in person under our belts. Check it out below!
It all started with a quick call to our closest West Elm. We knew they supported local artists (which is awesome) but we didn’t know how to get involved. We also didn’t know what exactly we’d make as said local artists, or anything about pricing, selling, quantities, packaging, advertising ourselves, etc. So hopefully we’re coming at this “guide” with the eyes of someone who didn’t know much and had a lot of questions.
But before I ramble on, I’m going to inject a bit of structure into this post because #iloveagoodlist. What I’m going to cover will of course vary from pop up to pop up, but these are the things we’ll talk about today:
- What products to sell
- How we priced our products
- How we promoted our pop up
- What we needed for our display
- How we dealt with packaging
- How we set up a payment system
- How we set up our shop
- Miscellaneous stuff to remember
So let’s dive in shall we!
What products to sell
We spent a good chunk of time brainstorming what to make. It needed to be sellable at a reasonable price (we’ll get into pricing later). It needed to be something we were good at making. And we wanted it to be a product we liked enough to display in our own house – just in case we ended up with a bunch of unsold goods am-I-right? Kidding, kidding, we just wanted it to feel like “us.”
We started with the deer head, which was based on a present Evan made for me years ago (more on that here). We added the Texas designs because a) Texas is awesome, and b) we hoped that having a Texas product would make our shop feel even more local and personal.
How we priced our products
This was a hard one, so we worked backwards. We originally thought we would sell handmade marquee letters because we often get requests to make/sell/rent ours. But the West Elm folks (huge thanks to Will Williamson for answering all our questions!) told us that usually products over $100 don’t sell as well at their events, so those big marquees were a no-go. This number of course is going to be different for any venue, but we learned that talking to the people in charge is a good place to start when it comes to your price point.
Once we had products in mind that we knew could sell under that $100 mark, we calculated the cost in materials/time and picked a price that was above that number, but not higher than what we’d pay for the item in stores (we asked a bunch of friends and family to let us know what they’d pay in stores too).
How we promoted our pop up
This was another new adventure… how do you actually get the word out about your event? The obvious answer is to just tell people, which we definitely did, but we also relied on Instagram and Facebook. Being a graphic designer, I mocked up some product photos with the pop up info (location, date, time, etc) and we posted those a week before and a day before the event.
We also created a Facebook event and invited all our friends that live in the area. This is stuff we’re still figuring out, so hopefully the combo of Facebook and Instagram was enough to remind people/provide info, but not so much that we got annoying (sorry friends if we got annoying).
What we needed for our display
This ended up being a decent amount of additional unexpected work, but luckily everything we made can be used in future shows. Again, we relied on the advice of Will from our West Elm store when it came to what type of stuff to bring.
We decided to make outdoor signage, an “About Us” sign for our table, pricing signage, business cards (plus a holder for them), displays for our products, and a sign up sheet for custom orders.
For the outdoor signage, we built a chalkboard A-frame that you can see in the photo above. We’ll post a tutorial later on the blog – it was really easy to make and could be used for tons of other events (showers, parties… shower parties… wait, what?)
We also built custom wood displays that we could mount our pricing sign and “About Us” sign to. The larger “About Us” sign is displayed between two acrylic sheets, mounted on wood. The pricing sign, since we didn’t have small enough acrylic, is held to the wood with magnets. Again, we will post tutorials on how to make these since they could be used for tons of different stuff (holiday menus anybody?)
We even turned a chunk of old branch from our yard into a business card holder. This is from the same branch we cut down forever ago to make our silver painted mantel branch… yep, it’s been in our garage attic for three years!
To display our deer and Texas’s, we brought some of these acrylic stands in a couple sizes. We also built a custom display stand for the ornaments using wood and brass pegs. I kinda want to mount it on a wall and hang keys/sunglasses from it one day.
West Elm was nice enough to lend their artists things like books and crates for adding height to our table displays, which helped a lot. But if you’re doing a pop up that doesn’t provide that stuff, bring some items to create elevation (boxes, books, crates, baskets, cake stands, etc). It will add visual interest and make your products easier to see.
How we dealt with packaging
We had to provide all of our own packaging for the event. For us this meant two different sized paper bags, stickers (to close the bags), boxes (for the deer), and tape (for the boxes). We wanted to brand our boxes and bags so they looked a little more custom, so we made a stencil of our logo and spray painted our bags.
When coat after coat of spray paint warped our stencil, we wised up and made a stamp. We 3D printed it, mounted the print to foam, and mounted the foam to wood. This was WAY easier (plus we weren’t dying of fumes). We used the stamp method for the remaining bags, boxes, and even the backs of our products (which we also signed).
Side note – the boxes were big so we brought them flat packed, hid them under our table at the pop up, and assembled on site. Maybe there’s a better way to do this – we are still figuring things out.
How we set up a payment system
Collecting payment was another item we were responsible for. To take credit card payments, a lot of people use Square but we opted for PayPal Here since we were already set up with PayPal. It was free, really easy to use, and it tracks things like how much you sold of each product variation and what times of day you sold the most.
We didn’t want to forget that some people prefer to pay in cash though. So we made sure to bring some cash monies with us to use as change if necessary. Fun fact, only one person paid in cash, so I think if you can do credit card you’ll cover most of your bases.
An added complication of selling physical goods is that in Texas, you have to pay sales tax. Which meant we had to fill out some forms to register with the state. I’m sure it’s different per state, but definitely something to look into if you want to keep to the straight and narrow.
As part of the whole getting paid thing, we also started an online store. That way, if people told their friends about us and their friends wanted to buy a product too, they wouldn’t have to wait for another pop up.
How we set up our shop
Our best advice about setting up: get there early! It took us several trips to/from the car to carry everything, plus then we had to actually figure out how we wanted our table to look.
We thought it would take us half an hour max, and it definitely took more like 45 minutes. Maybe because we are noobs. Maybe we brought too much stuff. Which brings me too….
Miscellaneous stuff to remember
There are tons of little miscellaneous things we brought to help the day run smoother. Some of them we needed, some of them we didn’t need, but having all of them made us feel better.
- Extra tape
- Extra scissors
- Extra twine (for the ornaments)
- A sharpie (just in case we forgot to sign a product)
- Our Yetis!!!
- A nice camera
- A tablet and a laptop… just in case (didn’t use either)
- Our stamp and ink (for any boxes/bags we may have missed)
- Some tools (to assemble the deer heads – we let people choose what head color and backing type they wanted, and we assembled on demand)
- Extra chalk (in case our chalkboards outside got messed up)
- Spare phone batteries (the payment system is run on your phone so keeping it charged is extra important)
- Duct tape (always necessary)
We know we still have a lot to learn, but hopefully this helps anyone who is considering doing a pop up shop. If you guys have any further questions just ask below in the comments and we will answer everything the best we can!