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Pop-up Co-op

We are a team of incredibly awesome Pittsburgher’s that work hard every day, as individuals and professionals, to make Pittsburgh a better place. Our team includes, Grant Ervin: policy wonk and passionate neighborhood leader, Christina Robertson: marketing expert and baking entrepreneur and Talia Piazza: community builder and communications guru.

Our project, the Pop-up Co-op is a revitalization strategy which will benefit a neighborhood, its residents and local entrepreneurs. Our project will repurpose an empty storefront into a locally run and organized co-op and incubator for small retail businesses. Those looking to open a small business are challenged by the start-up building expenses and find it difficult to succeed while working to keep the bills paid. Similarly, a challenge for neighborhood commercial districts is that while they may have market potential and an untapped customer base, matching product availability with customer demand is perceived as “risky”. The inability to solve this “chicken and egg” scenario for small businesses and commercial districts–of what comes first, the people or the businesses, has not had an answer...until now.

Pop-up Co-op has come up with a solution! The empty storefront can comfortably house 4-5 local vendors as well as a small seating area for guests. Vendors will rent space at the site and sell their homemade and organic goods under one roof, sort of like an indoor farmers’ market. Each vendor will commit to operating the storefront and selling the other vendors’ products one-two days/week. This model will eliminate the need for each small business to purchase or rent a storefront and will relieve the burden of operating a shop 7 days a week and let the vendors share other operational and marketing costs.

We have a property, located in Morningside, identified (with a cooperative owner) for use and interested vendors on board. We want to create a temporary co-op that will allow us to conduct a feasibility study as well as on the ground market-research while actually operating the business. During the 3-6 months the pop-up co-op is operating, our team will be gathering data and market information, and the vendors will be gaining experience in running a business as well as feedback from customers that can be used to create a better product. Based on this, we will create a business plan and strategy for the creation of a permanent community co-op that sells local goods to local people at a local price.

Funded by Pittsburgh, PA (December 2011)