Opus Energy – the team and powering force behind Brighter Business – has been working with small businesses for the last 16 years, and we know that everyone needs an occasional helping hand to navigate the ups and downs of running a business.
We know that starting a small business is easier said than done. We wanted to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and understand the journey that retailers go through when setting up their own small business. So, that’s exactly what we decided to do – opening a pop-up juice bar, powered by Opus Energy: the Kinetic Café (you can read more about the caff here!)
Our first task? Deciding where the shop would be based. Almost as soon as we started, we realised the challenge we’d taken on.
Firstly, we had to zero in on a city. Research helped us to compare different aspects of cities around the UK that might be good locations for our temporary SME. We kicked off by using the Brighter Business Clusters Map, which let us find UK hotspots for retail businesses, while comparing stats like average premises cost, retail spend and numbers of businesses at a glance. Check out our infographic to see the research we unpicked – and keep reading below to see the places we shortlisted…
We narrowed down our search to two cities: Brighton and Bristol. Both of these locations are fantastic for start-ups: Brighton is one of the entrepreneurial capitals of the UK, and Bristol was recently ranked second in the Start-up Cities Index.
However, we ran into problems when comparing these locations to our essential criteria list. We needed:
- A venue that allowed short-term lets
- An on-street location with high footfall
- A space with all the essential facilities for a juice bar – a kitchen, a counter, space for customers and toilets, to name but a few.
It was a tough decision, but Brighton and Bristol had to be removed from our cities of choice. While wonderful locations for start-ups and SMEs, we couldn’t find a short-term let space that had the facilities we needed, in the time we wanted.
Back to the drawing board.
We took a step back, widened our search and considered other cities that we had initially discounted; eventually settling on the (little known…) city of London. The capital has the highest number of businesses in the UK, and because of this, costs are high and survival rates are significantly lower.
But we couldn’t ignore the fact it had a better selection of short-term retail spots available, with a thriving small business scene. London was somewhere the Kinetic Café could have a chance of success.
Our next challenge was finding a business that would let us rent their shop for a few days. We looked through a number of specialist pop-up websites – appearhere, wearepopup and Storefront – to find a venue that fit all our criteria.
We were about to have our next big realisation: finding a pop-up venue to hire is not the same as renting an AirBnB. All pop-up business ideas have to be pitched to the venue owner – a unique business case for every venue you approach. We thought we’d been well prepared in our research, but this additional hoop to jump through meant thinking on our feet to pull together our “please choose us” rationale. After all, these venue owners also have a business to run – why would they treat us any differently?
So, we pitched, and pitched, and pitched. We had pitches rejected, and we had pitches accepted, only to then be let down, or out-competed by other businesses. We started to get nervous that we weren’t going to find ‘the one’. We started to get an idea for how stressful this very first stage of opening a business is.
It felt like another set-back, but as all small business owners who have gone through this know, you have to push through the challenges to see your vision become reality. After another round of searching, and with assistance from another online property platform called Popertee, we finally found a store in London on the right dates, within budget, with the right facilities – and after enthusiastically pitching ourselves to the owner, we got the green light.
It’s fair to say that we didn’t envisage finding a premises to be as challenging or time-consuming as it was. We learned that even the decisions you feel most confident about can be turned on their head in the space of a few hours – and there isn’t always the luxury of time to pivot or embrace the challenge how you would like.
In our first step, we learned the struggle that many retail businesses must face in their first few days of conception (albeit with a lot less pressure, as our café is only open for a few days). And really, we’re only just starting to appreciate the blood, sweat and tears it takes.
Next on the to-do list… logistics.