I took a long break from cookie decorating before the holidays. Keeping up with custom orders, long nights of decorating, and being tired all the time at my full-time job had resulted in such burn out that I almost threw in the towel and quit cookies altogether. But a passion for this tugged at my heart and got me thinking of better ways to manage it. I needed something to bring the excitement back to the business.
Enter Pop-Up Shops
Back in November, I contacted a local boutique owner and asked her about doing a pop-up shop in her store kind of as a trial run. I knew I would be limited in the amount of inventory I could produce as well as have a limited amount of space to display and sell. The Thanksgiving Pop-Up shop at Meri’s Boutique was just what Treat Petite needed to get out of the slump. Preparing for that pop-up was an adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The next holiday was Christmas. I knew if I could make the Thanksgiving shop a success, then there was no way that a Christmas shop could fail. I contacted Meredith again and we discussed dates for a Christmas Pop-Up. She was having a special store event on a Thursday night, December 5th. Her store was going to be open late that night for a fundraising event that she hosts yearly. She invited me to Pop-Up the same night. Sounded perfect. Just had to get to work.
I got busy creating cookies. I wanted a larger inventory than what I had available at Thanksgiving and I wanted a mixture of cookie sets that would be appropriate for gifts as well as a large selection of single cookies. What ended up being the best seller was the individual cookies. Customers really like picking out a selection of cookies for themselves. The gift sets didn’t move as well but that was ok. I had enough interest in the cookies that once the shop ended, I was able to repackage the gift sets into larger sets of 12 and sell those as assorted mixes. One of the sets I had available was a hot cocoa set which was a red ceramic mug filled with hot cocoa mix and cookie sticks. These actually sold out after the pop-up and I had to make a few extra for some customers who really wanted them! I will be selling these again in February as Valentine sets.
What surprised me though was the interest in Paint-Your-Own cookies. As it turned out, tons of parents wanted these cookies because their kids were out on Christmas break – and anyone with kids knows they go stir crazy waiting for Christmas and you have to keep them occupied to keep them from driving you nuts. These cookies ended up being a perfect “craft project” during the kids’ holiday break. Some requested them for stocking stuffers and some requested them to have a Christmas Eve activity for their kids. Whatever their purpose was, they were in hot demand.
After the pop-up at Meri’s on the 5th, I took orders for these Paint-Your-Own sets over Facebook. I ended up with over 200 requests. Amazing! I took the orders on the 11th and promised to have them ready by the 18th. Now, I know what you are thinking, that’s 7 days to make 200 cookies. No biggie, right? Well here’s the thing, in those 7 days I had to work at my real job for 5 of them. So I had one weekend and 5 nights to get them ready. AND I had to double that 200 to 400 cookies. The Paint-Your-Own sets I make have a main cookie that has the design PLUS a separate paint palette cookie. It was a little hectic, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I got them done and got them out in time. The pictures and videos my customers sent me of their kids working on the cookies were one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever had!
The continued success of the Meri’s Pop-Ups led me to look for more avenues for pop-ups. I wanted longer selling times and to be able to set up more frequently. There are some limitations with Meri’s. Her shop is open until 5pm Monday through Friday – and unfortunately, I work until 4:30PM those same days. Weekly shops at Meri’s don’t work for us. She is open on Saturdays from 10AM until 2PM which allows for a four hour shop at her place. I will continue to do Pop-Ups at Meri’s because I adore her and we have good sales when we do it. But I also will be setting up monthly at our local flea market. This is a Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday event which all total equals about 20 hours of sales time.
So what is it about these Pop-Ups that I love? Well, I get to completely control the product I make. I’m not taking customer requests. This is my opportunity to do the creative cookies that I want to do. The challenge is trying to anticipate what the customer might be interested in. But as far as design, I get to control that completely! Sometimes it is discouraging to only create what a customer wants – especially when the customer wants a Pinterest cookie. Those cookies are someone else’s ideas and we are simply copying them. A designer wants to create his or her own work and is not satisfied simply repeating others’ works. Being allowed to challenge yourself creatively, being able to express yourself with your work, and being able to try out that new idea are things that make any creative work fun. The Pop-Ups allow me to do this. This new area for creativity has given me a new burst of creative energy.
This creative energy gets expressed in other ways too – not just with cookie designs. I get to think about fun and creative packaging. I get to think about and create fun and interesting displays. I get to sit down with SketchUP and design my booth – and then I get to put it together in real life and get an immense satisfaction of seeing all these ideas come together! I certainly have a personality that enjoys having control of things. But when you produce things for the public at their request – THEY are in control. So that’s what has made this fun for me. It’s my product, they are my designs, it is my booth, and I get to share it all with you.
Do you want to have your own Pop-UP Cookie shop? You only need a few things to get started. A table, tablecloth, shopping bags, a way to take money, and a lot of cookies is all you really need to get started. These items below are what I use.