Pop-up businesses have been bursting on to the scene in towns and cities across the country for a few years. But a new project is giving budding entrepreneurs advice about how to set up a pop-up shop and put empty retail space to use at the same time. FLORA THOMPSON reports

Many people have a great business idea but find it hard to take the plunge and launch – especially when so much is at stake financially.

But a new scheme hopes to give budding entrepreneurs a chance to test the water in Brighton, breathing life back into empty shops, before they decide about whether to make a long-term commitment.

In a drive to encourage the city’s lucrative creative industry and continue to attract shoppers and visitors, Brighton and Hove City Council has collaborated with organisation We Are Pop Up.

Part of the ReCreate European-funded scheme, Brighton joins Bournemouth, Chatham and Ipswich where pop-ups are already thriving.

Similar projects in Eastleigh, Hampshire, and Flers, northern France, are also in progress.

The scheme has already proven so popular that We Are Pop Up is appealing for property owners with shops or gallery space available to let on a short term basis.

A shop share scheme is also being launched, when entrepreneurs can rent a rail, table or shelf in the premises of an already established business.

Taj’s Tea Parlour is just one of the success stories to date.

The tea room popped up on Brighton Square in June. It has a party room available for private hire, offers catering for weddings and events and has since hosted creative workshops and events.

Lingerie designer Taj Noel-Cambridge said she struggled to find a building for her catering business for years.

She said: “I moved from London to Brighton and searched for somewhere for ages.

“It was quite difficult to find somewhere for a small business. Rents are quite expensive and the business rates were astronomical.

“It is something that needed to be addressed as it makes it impossible for small businesses to consider setting up.

“I carried out a lot of research and then discovered the pop-up scheme.

“The tea room is going really well and the idea is proving popular with customers who are spreading the word.

“I think the scheme is a really good idea. The business rates are the same, but the rents are lower, which softens the blow which makes it easier to start up and come up with the initial amount of money for the project.”

Galleries, performance spaces and other eateries are also proving successful as part of the scheme.

Artist Sophie Giblin opened pop-up gallery, kollektiv, in Brighton Square in May which exhibited work from University of Brighton graduates.

She is now looking for larger premises for another pop-up gallery later in the year and is hosting workshops for other graduates interested in setting up their own pop-up businesses.

Sophie, who completed her degree last year, said: “People love walking around Brighton and seeing something new open up. Pop-up is quite perfect for what I’m looking for.

“It is cheap and low risk and a great way of showing off the work of local and emerging artists. There is no way I could afford to commit to a long term lease on a gallery.”

Theatre company Pink Fringe transformed an empty shop in St James’s Street earlier this year to stage their production New Ways of Living.

Councillor Geoffrey Bowden, chairman of the council’s economic development and culture committee, said: “In Brighton and Hove the number of vacant shops is low compared with the rest of the country, and they don’t tend to stay empty for long, but there is still a turnover of properties, and that’s where the pop-up shops come in.

“Finding affordable premises for our small creative companies is a pressing need.

“Pop-ups can be for a few days or weeks and they can suit anyone from chefs to artists or retailers, and can be used to test ideas, hold promotional events or showcase their work.

“The city has a reputation as a vibrant, creative city and the scheme has fitted perfectly with that, giving creative entrepreneurs a chance to test the market and bringing together people with ideas and people with space available.

“We have had everything from galleries and performing arts spaces to creative cafés.”

Ed Allison-Wright, of the Centurion Group, is the landlord of pop-up properties in Brighton Square.

He said: “It’s great to see the scheme evolve from its inception. Pop-ups put their own character on what would otherwise be an empty unit and they have benefits for everyone.

“They improve the look of the premises and surrounding tenants in turn improve their trade.”

Arts and creative industries are responsible for around 16,000 jobs in Brighton and Hove – representing more than ten per cent of the workforce. And business leaders think the new project could add value to the area.

As part of the pop up shop idea, large disused buildings have been communally let by networks of people keen to share costs and sell their wares.

Gavin Stewart, Brighton Business Improvement District manager, said: Brighton’s creative credentials have benefitted from activities provided so far.

Mr Stewart added: “The issue really lies with the ability of landlords to engage positively with the process and actually allow an easy in, easy out contract. The more enlightened landlord understands the benefit of a thriving streetscape, not just for visitors, but also for prospective tenants.

“By creating a uniquely interesting environment, attracting more customers and thereby increasing footfall, pop-ups can play an enhanced role in not just the sustainability of the high street, but also supply more lucrative returns for the landlord in the long run.”

Yesterday We are Pop Up featured 17 potential locations in Brighton on its website with costs for as little as £15 per day to rent a shelf in an existing retail unit.

Costs for a pop up unit were ranging between £20 and £400 per day.

To find pop-up premises or offer a space email Abigail Freeman Abigail@wearepopup.com or visit wearepopup.com Visit http://www.theloopbrighton.org/about/recreate/ for information on ReCreate.


Roll up for free Monday meeting to tell people about the project

A MEETING is taking place on Monday, September 15, at Taj’s Tea Parlour, Brighton Square, at 6pm and is open to anyone interested in the pop-up scheme. The event is free but space is limited.

To register visit https://pumu-btn-shopshare.eventbrite.co.uk, or to offer premises, email Abigail Freeman abigail@wearepopup.com


City council can offer rates relief

UNTIL March 2013 income from business rates was paid into a national pool and redistributed by the government to councils in proportion to the adult population of each area. The rates help local authorities fund the services they provide.

Since April all councils have received less money from the government grant but have kept half of the business rates collected in the area as an incentive to improve the economy. The other half is still handed out by central government through grants.

The government still sets the amount of rates people have to pay each year, but the city council is keen to support small businesses by offering rate relief and the chance to pay in monthly instalments.

Rates are calculated by determining the rateable value of a business, and a multiplier, set by size of business and location, which is the number of pence per pound to be paid. Calculate what you pay in rates at http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/business-and-trade/business-rates/business-rates-information


Entrepreneurs come back home

Rizzle Kicks returned to their home town last year to launch one of a series of pop-up shops.

Harley Sylvester Alexander-Sule and Jordan Stephens transformed the Old Courtroom Theatre into a store selling merchandise and gifts, and rolled the idea out in venues across the country to mark the launch of their second album Roaring 20s.

Previously Mr Stephens said: “It is the town we grew up in and it means a lot to come back. I had walked past the building often – and swam at the Prince Regent – but had never been inside. The set up is amazing.”


Pooches benefit from canine café

A CANINE café has proved popular as a pop-up eatery.

Chubby Chops set up shop on Brighton Square.

Joel Ariaman, joint owner and manager with his partner Alex Ziembinska, came up with the idea for a dog-friendly restaurant after struggling to find somewhere to visit with their own pooch.

It is thought to be the first café in the city exclusively catering for dog lovers, and their pets, with a menu for owners and dogs.

Mr Ariaman: “When we first told people about the idea some of them thought we were crazy. But now we’re actually doing it the response has been brilliant.

“Dogs can roam around the cafe, play with toys and sleep in beds and enjoy their own treats and snacks while owners and dog lovers can have refreshments.”

The doggy menu includes Bonnie’s Banana Biscuits, Apple and Carrot Dumplings and Woody Woof Woof Brownies. There is also yoghurt-based ice cream available in chicken flavour or banana and apple.

All food is homemade on the premises, with food preparation separate from the dog area.

They are considering looking into a café for cats in the city too.


County’s celebrity chefs aim for ‘cool food in a cool environment’

TWO Sussex chefs have launched their own business but are also fans of hosting pop-up events.

Steven Edwards, a Horsham chef who won Masterchef the Professionals in 2013, and Shoreham-based Josh Stanzl launched business Etch.

A first pop-up event at Nyetimber vineyard has given them a taste for the idea and they hope to continue with more to help them deliver “cool food in a cool environment.”

Steven, 28, grew up living in Ashdown Park hotel near East Grinstead.

He met Josh, a former Northbrook College student who now lives on Shoreham Beach, while working at South Lodge Hotel, near Horsham.

In the pair’s first pop-up event they created a menu inspired by Nyetimber’s sparkling wine and served it in the vineyard.

They hope to develop a series of venues across Sussex and the rest of the country and are seeking interesting venues including breweries and cafés.