CiB Shop – New Beginnings

Well, I invited, you came, I spoke, we discussed and by the end of it we had a plan. It was a quite intense evening and we covered a lot of ground which I’m going to attempt to sumarise here.

In short, though, the room decided to go for it, to form a committee / steering group and to meet next week with the intention of opening a second Created in Birmingham shop in the city centre around November.

I opened with a 15 minute presentation about the Bullring shop. Here’s the video:

My aim here was to explain what happened, communicate some facts and figures but mostly set the tone for the evening. Yes, the shop was a good thing, yes Birmingham needs something like this and it should happen again. But I’m not going to do it myself. Someone or some group need to make it happen.

Must say I’m rather pleased with my rousing finale at 13:00. Made up on the spot, that was. Anyway…

My notes are sketchy but it probably doesn’t matter. The important details of what will happen will be figured out in the next week or so. What matters is the general picture that came out of the room.

  • The first decision was that paying rent was a no-go. In order to pay the estimated £80 – £250,000 a year for a good city centre location we’d need to seriously compromise how we did business. So we’re looking for other options.
  • It was suggested that property landlords would be interested in giving free rent for 3 months to interesting ventures such as this. It might be possible to hop around the city for a year or so in this manner, at least until the recession ends and landlords can fill their units again. Further to this the notion of an always moving, always changing shop appealed as long as loss of customers could be mitigated.
  • A tentative model of a series of sequential popup shops in good locations supported by a hub (either a lockup or cheap shop in suburbs) and website was generally seen as the best option.
  • At the very least the room saw it as essential that something was open in the city centre this Christmas so as not to lose momentum and, of course, to make money to support the project.

We then moved on to the organisation structure. This was the critical part for me. It didn’t really matter what we were going to do – what mattered was who was going to do it. We agreed that some kind of committee or steering group should be formed. But it was also agreed that co-ops, while nice, are fragile and some sort of benevolent dictatorship would be needed.


After a couple of hours I brought the general meeting to a close and asked anyone who would like to be part of a committee to stay behind. 13 people stayed with various skills and such. Some were pertinent for getting a shop up and running, some were more useful for once we have a shop. I’m going to concentrate on the former for now. After I’ve gone through what we’ve currently got I’ll explain what happens next.

We only took first names so I’m guessing at surnames using Eventbrite – they may be wrong!

  • James Thomson: Sits on various arts committees. Can help with organisational structure. Likes data analysis.
  • Alison from People Shop: Has run People Shop for 10 years. Nuff said.
  • Jeff Stuka: Works in marketing. Has planning and business experience. Was very vocal about need for business plan.
  • Andrea Daniels: Business analysis and retail experience. (Also interested in managing shop but that’s for later.)
  • Jamie Roberts and Alex Church: Work in commercial property sector. I repeat, work in commercial property sector. Can help with securing pop-up shop locations and liasing with property owners. Also have contacts in industry eg shot fittings, etc.

Those six had what I’m calling the hard skills needed to find a shop and get it off the ground. Others volunteering for the committee were Kathryn Rushe (whose minutes I’m relying on right now), Simon Gray, Steve Cooper, Karen Cameron, Matt Murtagh and Dennis McNulty. They either offered skills more suitable for later stages or that essential outsider perspective. Essentially they’re willing and able to commit.

And then there’s me. I’m taking charge here but only for the transition. I need to be able to walk away from this project if needbe.

So, what next?

The urgent thing, from my perspective, is that we have a strong and viable core committee to get us a shop in November. While the six people above are better that I could possibly have hoped for there’s still room for more and I know some very interesting people weren’t able to make it on Monday.

Also a benevolent dictator hasn’t emerged yet. We really need a benevolent dictator.

The next meeting will be sometime next week (I’m going to run a Doodle poll to see when most people are free). If you think you’re like to be in this core committee please email me with details of what skills, contacts or other things you’ve got.

Right now I’m not interested in people who can offer time or enthusiasm or who can help build and run the shop. I’m interested in people who can make the shop happen. Level-headed business-minded types. The rest of you will be essential but your role comes later.

Please get in touch.

And if you have any thoughts about this, whether you were at the meeting or not, please use the comments below or, like Simon did, write something on your own blog.

Thank you all for your time, your energy, your thoughts and ultimately your support.


  1. Fascinating stuff, Pete. As someone who has also been ploughing away at a labour of love that “really should happen” for the past year or so – and which is now starting to take itself much more seriously and dealing with all kinds of commercial issues – I recognised much in what you’ve written here and in the video presentation in particular. My “team” is much more of a co-op – a dictator, benevolent or otherwise, would be given very short shrift – but nevertheless the key point is to get the right people involved. Hope it works out for you. We’ve looked at the pop-up shop thing but it’s too much of a commitment for something that would be “non-core” business. We’re dipping a toe in the water with a trial-run market stall in Camden (London) this Friday!

  2. Well done for last night’s meeting! Although I can’t physically be involved in CiB in the way you currently need people (my head would equally explode if I involve myself in any other activities right now), but I will of course support CiB in any way possible.

  3. Laura Taylor

    really good meeting Pete, I know it comes later but I will def be a dogs body to help actually run the shop! I wish I could do more but just don’t have the skills! but I do come with years of retail experience!

  4. One fundamental feature where the model I outlined differs from Rhubarb Radio’s setup is that the Benevolent Dictator for Rhubarb – Dan – is such because he was the primary investor and was responsible for most of the fundraising activity (& also for working out a way of monetising the format in the guise of Civico); the CIBShop at this stage doesn’t have a primary investor, so how might our BD emerge?

  5. Although I coudn’t make the meet (working a night shift) I’m fully behind a new venture of another ‘shop’ and truly believe it gives aspiring artists a real opportunity. I have bags of enthusiasm and will help in anyway I can if called upon. The CiB shop was so well known in all areas of Birmingham and for one made me feel, for the first time, like a real artist!

  6. How would people feel about a membership fee in order to be part of the organisation in order to have stock in the shop?

    300 suppliers paying a £10 membership fee totalling £3,000 clearly wouldn’t pay any rent – but £3,000 does buy a lot of flyers to market to the offline target buyers.

  7. Sadly I have no time at all to help, and so should probably be ignored, but as someone who wishes the CiB Shop the best possible chance, I’d suggest considering a limited company structure and integrating a profit motive. I run a business for profit motivation, but I was also on the board of Birmingham Artists for some time, which was a members organisation similar to a cooperative, where the tenants were effectively stakeholders.

    I’d say there’s a fundamental flaw in suggesting numbers like 300 suppliers paying a £10 membership fee. As Simon notes, this does not touch the sides financially, but it may well hamstring a benevolent dictator who might feel answerable to 300 people. CiB may effectively be subsidising these supporters by providing lower-than-market-rate rent and positioning and this will generate a communal conflict of interests. In my experience Birmingham Artists found it incredibly difficult to make important strategic decisions for this reason.

    I think you can make a good case for CiB Shop being worthy of subsidisation, via free rent, or other means, but I’d echo Mr Stuka’s plea for a business plan. For instance: standard retail markup in galleries is, I believe, 50% and not the 25% CiB Shop charged. So if CiB shop had raised prices by 25% and retained that it might have turned over £60K, not £45K in three months, which would provide an additional £5K of operating income per month. Would this start to make things look a little more viable?

    I know profit is a dirty word for some artists (until they start making a little), but profit doesn’t necessarily go straight into individual’s pockets. It’s the life-blood that allows you to invest and create space to operate. It’s also a reasonable motivating factor for a benevolent dictator. Not the only one. But it helps.

    BTW: 100 well-wishers paying £1,000 for a 0.5% share and an annual private view invite sounds a little more like it.

  8. […] On the whole, it sounds like these pop-up shops have been very well received. After a successful three-month trial, the Birmingham shop closed due to their prestigious unit in the Bullring shopping centre being let to paying tenants, but it is expected to return for Christmas. […]

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