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.